NEWS: News

UK Investigates Illegal Puppy Trade with the Daily Mirror

(Photo by Daily Mirror | Rowan Griffiths)


FOUR PAWS UK and the Daily Mirror newspaper lifted the lid on a systematic, unscrupulous and highly organised industry based on the fraudulent import of puppies into the UK.

The investigation, which made the front page of the Daily Mirror last year, exposed a hugely lucrative industry in which underage puppies, bred in poor conditions and imported into the UK on fraudulent passports from Hungary. Puppies suffering from health conditions, behavioural problems and posing a potential rabies risk, could be ending up in the households of unwitting members of the British public.

For months, FOUR PAWS UK and the Daily Mirror tracked one particular transporter, thought to be bringing in around 50 puppies a month from breeders in Hungary, via DEFRA registered kennels. As part of the investigation, FOUR PAWS UK arranged for the purchase of a puppy, brought into the UK by this transporter.

An independent veterinary report found that the puppy showed clear signs of mistreatment, was vomiting and had diarrhoea. She had not been treated for worms and was also suffering from kennel cough, which suggests she was kept in unsuitable conditions prior to and during transport.

The puppy was too young (only 8 weeks old) to travel on the TRACES scheme, which regulates commercial transport of animals, and the EU pet passport she was travelling on was therefore fraudulent. Although this puppy had been vaccinated for rabies, she was too young to be administered with the vaccine, meaning the vaccine could have been rendered ineffective.

FOUR PAWS investigations have shown that many puppies from conditions like the ones exposed in our investigation with the Daily Mirror will end up being sold on online classified ad sites.

The profit that can be made on these pedigree puppies is huge, and the punishment if caught is minimal, meaning there is virtually no deterrent.

You’d be surprised what you can buy online!

As well as more traditional pets such as puppies, cats and small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs etc), which pose their own set of problems, you might be surprised to find out that a whole host of wild and exotic animals can also be purchased with relative ease on online classified ad sites and forums!

The Guardian recently published a report which detailed the thousands of dangerous wild animals living on private properties in the UK, including lions, wolves and deadly venomous snakes:

While not all of these animals will have been purchased online, you’d be surprised at just what animals you CAN buy online. Wild and exotic animals such as primates might seem like cute, funny or interesting pets but they require incredibly specific care and an environment that suits their species’ needs. They are not suitable pets and cannot be housed appropriately in a domestic setting.

An estimated 5000 primates are being kept as pets in the UK, a figure that many people will no doubt find shocking. The most popular primates that are kept and traded as pets are Marmosets, followed by Capuchins and Squirrel Monkeys. Neither Marmosets or Squirrel monkeys require any kind of licencing so it is impossible to keep track of numbers in the UK accurately. A DWA (Dangerous Wild Animal) licence is required for selected primates like Capuchins. However, the licence is non species specific and are issued by officials many of whom have little or no understanding of primates.

While it might seem shocking, it doesn’t take a great deal of digging to find adverts online for these types of primates and many more unsuitable wild and exotic animals.

FOUR PAWS UK recently joined forces with fellow animal welfare and veterinary organisations the RSPCA, Wild Futures, Born Free, the British Veterinary Association, One Kind and Captive Animals Protection Society to launch a campaign calling on the government to ban the keeping of primates as pets in the UK.

In the meantime, it is also essential that online advertising platforms do far more to regulate the trade of exotic animals on the internet. 

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