Puppy smuggling inquiry launched

01 August 2019

Dogs can be imported into the UK legally from the EU for commercial and non-commercial reasons, using two different schemes: the Balai Directive and the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)

There are concerns that the PETS is being misused to illegally import puppies to the UK. The EFRA Committee’s 2017 report on Animal Welfare in England: domestic pets examined this issue and concluded that “the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is providing a vehicle for the illegal importation of puppies. The Committee also recommended that “the Government ban third party sales of dogs” as “dogs should only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations”.

Lucy’s Law

In December 2018, the Government announced that it would introduce a ban on third party sales of puppies, to be known as “Lucy’s Law”. It will mean that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months must either deal directly with the breeder or with an animal rehoming centre.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Committee Neil Parish MP stated:

“Puppies are smuggled into the UK as young as possible to meet the demand for cute and cuddly pets. They are often bred in terrible conditions, taken from their mothers too young and endure long and stressful journeys to reach the UK. There is even evidence that pregnant bitches are being smuggled in. This is a significant animal welfare concern.

“While I am pleased that the Government is going to introduce a ban on the third party sales of puppies, more can be done to tackle this terrible trade. We will therefore be following up on this part of our 2017 inquiry into the welfare of domestic pets in England.”

Terms of reference

Following on from its 2017 inquiry into the welfare of domestic pets in England, the Committee seeks written submissions on the following questions:

1. How many puppies are imported into the UK illegally, including under the EU Pet Travel Scheme?
2. Are border controls in the UK sufficient to detect puppies being imported illegally, and if not, how should this be improved?
3. After EU Exit, should the UK introduce tougher controls on pet imports? How would these be balanced against the needs of people legally transporting pets across borders?
4. Will the ban on third party sales of puppies: (i) encourage buyers to source puppies responsibly; and (ii) reduce illegal puppy smuggling?
5. How could demand in the UK for puppies be better met by domestic breeding?

The deadline for written submissions is 23 September 2019. Submissions can be submitted through the puppy smuggling inquiry page.

Further information

Image: David Fisher/Wikimedia Commons

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