Stop puppy imports

Puppy breeding has long provided irresponsible and illegal breeders to get rich with little regard to the welfare of a mother and her puppies, but with a sharp increase in demand and a struggling UK market, puppy imports from other countries are now satisfying the public desire for new pets.

Pandemic puppies have encouraged illegal trade

Shortly after the UK-wide lockdown began in March 2020, the interest in getting a puppy skyrocketed. Suddenly, prices for specific breeds doubled and the UK market struggled to keep up. With huge profits to be made, this imbalance provided ample opportunity for people acting illegally and irresponsibly to get rich, import puppies and take advantage of pet buyers.

With more time at home and isolation creeping in, many people turned towards pets as a way to get outside, combat loneliness, and welcome an additional furry family member during a distressing time.

Puppy imports have increased

In October alone, 5,287 Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHC) were issued - the highest ever for commercial dog and puppy imports. Thousands more have been issued since Coronavirus began.

24% of UK dog owners recently surveyed said they had got a new pet since lockdown began.*

ITAHCs are certificates that require a vet signature to allow an animal to be legally imported - each certificate could contain up to 150 puppies. In addition, we fear that many more puppies are being smuggled into the country illegally and younger than the 15 weeks of age set by law. Better enforcement is clearly needed.

Suspect an illegal puppy dealer? Call 0300 1234 999.

More people are willing to buy smuggled puppies than you think

New research discovered that a shocking 38% of people said they would buy a dog smuggled from another country.* We're worried about the amount of false advertising and lack of awareness around imported pets but we're also getting more concerned about the number of innocent buyers at risk for buying a poorly puppy.

Sadly, buying an imported pet, especially one that has been smuggled, could cost thousands in vet fees and even more in emotional distress. Poor breeding and rearing can result in hidden risks such as lifelong illness, suffering and premature death. These could all be on the cards, along with certain heartache.

Imported puppies can appear appealing to buyers

People may be attracted to imported animals because:

  • They can be cheaper and easier to buy
  • They might be misled with information about the animal's background and welfare
  • They may think they are helping to rescue an animal from poor conditions
  • They are unaware of the hidden risks

Diseased animals can also be a human health risk, with some dogs carrying notifiable diseases.

78% of people recently surveyed said that imported dogs and puppies should receive mandatory health screenings.*

Your next puppy could cost more than you think. We need to stop the irresponsible and illegal import of pets. But, we cannot achieve this on our own.

The ban on third party puppy sales

The UK Government's new law, banning the sale of puppies and kittens in England from third parties, came into effect on 6 April 2020. This means that anyone wanting to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must go directly to a breeder or rehoming centre.

In November, MPs were given evidence about the loopholes within the UK legislation that still allows for breeders in other countries to sell to people in England.

Wales will be introducing a ban

There's progress in Wales, where the Welsh Government has also committed to introducing a ban on the third party sale of puppies and kittens in 2021. We'll work closely with lawmakers in Wales to try to ensure that the Welsh legislation doesn't suffer from the same loopholes.

Help us stop puppy imports

We know that tackling the puppy trade is no easy task. As a starting point, we're proposing that the UK Government raise the age of imported dogs from 15 to 24 weeks. This solution makes enforcement easier as adult dentition will allow the dogs to be properly aged, and keeping puppies with breeders for longer will reduce sales as dogs begin to lose their "cute factor". The Minister seemed to agree in his evidence in November to MPs.

Give greater protection to the public when purchasing a puppy, and help us eliminate irresponsible breeders and sellers.

Puppy Contract

Use the Puppy Contract

If you're looking to buy a puppy for yourself or your family, The Puppy Contract will ensure your puppy has been well cared for, is healthy and will make the perfect pet for you.

Don't get "Petfished"

The third party sales law in England will only be effective if it's enforced and people are aware of the risks of buying from an illegal puppy dealer.

Don't get Petfished

Report illegal puppy trading

If you suspect someone is selling puppies illegally call your local authority or, if there is welfare concern, call us 0300 1234 999.


*Research conducted by Savanta Comres on behalf of the RSPCA from 13th-15th November 2020.

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