Heard in Europe

Thousands of puppies are being trafficked to the United Kingdom by Eastern European criminal gangs exploiting European Union laws on pet passports.

West Midlands MEP Daniel Dalton, a British conservative, said gangs were using fake pet passports to get past customs.

Unsuspecting families buying the animals face expensive vets’ bills or are forced to hand over problem dogs to charities for rehoming, he said.

Yesterday (30 September), the European Commission admitted there are problems with its pet passport system. It will meet with the EU Food and Veterinary Office before Christmas to review the rules.

Dalton, who has campaigned with charity the Dogs Trust for the rules to be tightened, said other laws to protect puppies were being ignored in large parts of the EU. He added the decision to review the rules was a “major step forward”.

The EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was meant to make it easier for people to take their animals on holiday or with them if they move abroad.

Under PETS rules, puppies entering the UK must not be for sale. They must be at least 15 weeks old, microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and treated for tapeworm.

david daltan
David Dalton MEP

A Dogs Trust investigation found vets in countries such as Romania and Lithuania falsify the documents so that sick dogs or those with serious behavioural problems can be imported into Britain, making gangsters huge profits.

The puppies, bred in disgusting “farms”, are often transported in appalling conditions over thousands of miles, according to the charity. The frequently underage animals are often drugged before being smuggled into the country.

Dalton said, “[The scheme was] never intended for commercial operators to bring hundreds of puppies in.”

The Dogs Trust said it was important to know as much about a breeder as possible, and to see a puppy with its mother before buying.

Paula Boyden, veterinary director of Dogs Trust, said, “The implications of the puppy smuggling trade are huge; for consumers who are being duped and the puppies that suffer horribly, plus the risk of disease.”

>>Read more about Dogs Trust investigation into puppy smuggling.

Photos courtesy of the Dogs Trust and Conservative MEPs.

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