We have warned that the threat of rabies in Britain could go up 60 fold, after calls we received about puppy trade went up by 33 per cent last year.

Following our report showing the huge rise in the numbers of dogs being imported from eastern Europe, MPs are now discussing measures to halt this illegal trade before an outbreak of disease, such as rabies.

MPs will discuss the increasing problems of the European puppy trade during a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons tomorrow, when Jim Fitzpatrick will call for fixed penalty notices for anyone caught bringing in dogs illegally.

It comes after The puppy trade from Europe: controls are failing (PDF236KB) – our report released earlier this month – argued the government should take over the enforcement of legislation from ferry companies to protect Britain from rabies and other diseases potentially harboured by puppies imported with false vaccination certificates.

Unaware of the health risks these animals pose

David Bowles, RSPCA head of public affairs, said:

“Too many people importing puppies from eastern Europe are more concerned about their profit than the health risks their actions carry.


“They are importing popular breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs from puppy farms in eastern Europe by claiming they are personal pets, before selling them to unsuspecting buyers who are unaware of the health risks these animals pose.


“We hope the discussion in Parliament during the 10 Minute Rule Bill will show the Minister the extent of concerns among politicians and that he will use his power to make positive change and address the increased risk of rabies returning to our shores.”

Many dogs are declared incorrectly as non-commercial

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

But it is now clear that many dogs have been illegally brought into Britain without the right documents, and are declared incorrectly as non-commercial before they are sold through the internet. Others are not being declared at all due to the lack of enforcement at ports.

The report makes five recommendations:

  • The government should increase spot checks at ports in Dover and Holyhead to enforce the rules on non-commercial trade in dogs.
  • Responsibility for checking the PETS systems to be passed from the ferry companies to the statutory border control agency.
  • The government should update the risk modelling from 2010 on the import of rabies in light of the increase in trade of dogs from eastern Europe.
  • The government should start proactive liaison with the European Commission and the veterinary authorities in Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Romania to assess and reduce the risk of fraudulent pet passport certificates being issued.
  • The government should focus resources on dogs being offered for sale on the internet to assess if they comply with the Pet Animals Act 1951 and that they have been imported legally under the commercial rules.

Take action

We are appealing for people to contact Defra to demand better enforcement and to clamp down on the illegal importation of puppies into Britain.

For more details visit our puppy trade campaigns page.

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