Vets welcome plan to crack down on illegal puppy imports


The UK government has set out plans to safeguard the welfare of imported puppies and dogs.

New measures will raise the minimum age for importing a puppy from 15 weeks to six months; ban the import of dogs with cropped ears and docked tails; and prohibit the import of heavily pregnant dogs to help protect puppy and mother welfare.

Cute Puppy

Welcoming the announcement, Daniella Dos Santos, senior vice president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: “We’re delighted that the government has listened to concerns raised repeatedly by veterinary and animal welfare organisations and is acting decisively to clamp down on the evils of puppy smuggling, ear cropping and tail docking.”

More than 66,000 dogs were commercially imported into the UK last year, according to Animal and Plant Health Agency figures. However, evidence shows a recent rise in low-welfare imports and smuggling activity, with border authorities seeing an increase of around 260% in the number of young puppies being intercepted for not meeting the UK’s pet import rules — from 324 in 2019 to 843 in 2020.

A BVA survey in 2018 revealed that three in ten (29%) companion animal vets had seen puppies that they were concerned had been brought into the country illegally, with the French Bulldog the most commonly mentioned breed.

And earlier this year a survey found that almost six in 10 (58%) small animal vets had been presented with dogs with cropped ears in the last 12 months. The Doberman was the breed most commonly presented to vets with cropped ears, followed by American Bulldogs and Cane Corsos.

An eight-week consultation on the government proposals welcomes views from the public and stakeholders and also asks for views on new penalties for breaching these rules, changes to the detention and rehoming process, and whether the proposals should be extended to cover cats and ferrets.

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