The Illegal Puppy Trade 


FOUR PAWS have been tirelessly campaigning for tougher restrictions on puppy imports into the UK from other countries. The pandemic has seen an enormous rise in the sale of pets, with the average price of a puppy increasing from £970 in March 2020 to an astonishing £2,062 in January 2021. This ever-increasing profit leads to illegal breeders selling puppies that are often underage, sick, and likely to die soon after arriving in the UK due to poor standards of care and pre-existing health conditions caused by improper breeding.

What changes do we want to see for puppies?

We want the minimum age of puppies being imported from other countries to be raised from just 15 weeks to six months. This will hopefully discourage breeders from separating puppies from their mothers too early, which can lead to health issues and make the trade far less lucrative. 

Our Model Solution must be adopted at a national level. We want to see the implementation of national digital Identification & Registration (I&R) databases which provide full traceability and identification of persons involved in a dog’s lifecycle, including the breeder, seller, transporter, the microchipping vet, the registering qualified professional, and all owners throughout the dog’s life.  

We want to ensure that dogs with cropped ears or docked tails cannot be imported into the UK. It has been illegal to mutilate dogs for aesthetic reasons since 2006, but the loophole of allowing these dogs to be imported and sold within the UK means that we are still complicit in their suffering.  

Restrictions on the importations of pregnant dogs is needed, as travelling across borders for several days can cause extreme stress and could affect the health of both the mother and her unborn puppies.

The current state of affairs 

After the disappointing news that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill had been dropped by the Government in May 2023, we were thrilled to hear that Selaine Saxby MP introduced the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill in December 2023. However, despite passing its Second Reading and gaining Government backing, this Bill has now sadly fallen due to the calling of the General Election.

We must now ensure that a new iteration of the Bill is introduced after the General Election that prohibits the importation of dogs under six months, those with cropped ears or docked tails, and those that are heavily pregnant.

What about Lucy’s Law?

Lucy's Law was named in honour of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued after spending five years at a puppy farm in 2013. She had been kept in a small cage for most of her short life and used for breeding under the cruellest of conditions. The treatment she received at the puppy farm resulted in her hips being totally fused, a curvature of the spine, epilepsy, and many other health conditions which eventually lead to her death in 2016. 

‘Lucy’s Law’ means that anyone looking to get a new puppy or kitten must buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead. The law also requires licensed dog breeders to show puppies interacting with their mothers in the place that they were bred and reared. The consequences of selling puppies/kittens without a licence is an unlimited fine or a prison term of up to six months.  

‘Lucy’s Law’ came into force in England in April 2020, with Scotland and Wales following suit in September 2021.

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