We are calling on the government to make tighter checks at ports to stop international puppy traders abusing loopholes in the controls to bring in dogs to the UK.

Today we launched a report which reveals there has been a rise in the risk of diseases such as rabies and parvovirus entering the country following the relaxation of quarantine rules in 2012.

In Pushing at an open door – how the present UK controls on rabies are failing (PDF 236KB) we detail how puppy dealers are evading the controls on a widespread basis and how there has been an increase in calls to us about illegal puppy trading.

The report also shows that border controls on dog imports and protecting the UK’s rabies free status, needs to be regulated by the government and not left to the responsibility of ferry companies.

RSPCA chief veterinary officer James Yeates said:

“If we want to protect the rabies free status of our country the government needs to take very seriously the number of dogs being fraudulently smuggled in as pets from the continent and then sold commercially on the internet.


Our rabies free status should not be left to a person working at a ferry company who is not experienced in what to look for as the government’s own figures clearly show this is not working.


‘The huge rise in dogs being imported as pets since controls were relaxed shows how puppy dealers are evading controls. They are selling on dogs, which can often be sick, to unsuspecting buyers.”

Dog and puppy imports have risen

Since January 2012 quarantine ceased for most dogs entering the UK for any non commercial purpose. A limit was set of five dogs per person to stop commercial traders taking advantage of the relaxed rules.

But it is now clear that many illegal dogs have been brought into Britain without the right documents. Dogs are declared incorrectly as non commercial and then sold through the internet or are not being declared at all due to the lack enforcement at ports.

Dog and puppy imports from other countries under Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) rose by 82 per cent in the first year when controls were dropped and there was a huge spike in imports from certain countries.

Puppy dealers have taken advantage of the loopholes

The RSPCA’s head of public affairs David Bowles said:

“Any animal that enters the country should be micro-chipped, vaccinated against rabies and be clearly identified on a pet passport, to comply with PETS.


Puppy traders are evading controls by not doing this and the huge numbers of dogs being imported show the system is being abused.


“Although PETS exists to make it easier for people to travel abroad with their dogs


“Puppy dealers have taken advantage of these loopholes by bringing in many popular breeds including French bulldogs and pugs from puppy farms in central Europe, saying they are personal pets and selling them online. Unsuspecting buyers are often left with large veterinary bills when the puppies become ill.”

Please see our puppy trafficking campaigns page where we are urging people to take action and contact DEFRA for better enforcement.

We can’t do it without you

To help the RSPCA investigate cases like this please donate online or text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).