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Scrap the puppy trade

In 2013 the UK Government brought in a new law to tackle the criminal scrap metal trade in England. But now it's puppies who are being traded like scrap with no regard for their welfare, or even if they live or die.

Puppy trafficking is big business with dealers getting rich and leaving a trail of sick and dead puppies behind them. Here's our statement on puppy breeding and sales (PDF 188KB).

Read our report 'Sold a pup? Exposing the breeding, trade and sale of puppies' to find out just how dire the situation is for dogs, and what we're doing to tackle unscrupulous puppy breeders and dealers.

Join us in telling the UK Government that puppies are more precious than pieces of metal. Sign the petition to #ScrapThePuppyTrade

Cocker spaniel sitting with a litter of newborn puppies © RSPCA

About the Campaign

We believe that huge numbers of sick, under-age and dying puppies are being illegally trafficked into the UK each year.

These puppies have had a very unpleasant start to life. Many are born on puppy farms across Europe, their mothers used as breeding machines to keep up with the high demand for puppies in the UK.

Bought ‘wholesale’ by dealers looking for the highest profit margin, in many cases the puppies are too young to be away from their mothers when they're loaded onto vans like cargo before travelling hundreds of miles. Just imagine for a second how frightening that would be...

Group of French bulldog puppies in a cage © RSPCA

Puppy dealers act

It's far too easy to sell puppies. We want to see the UK Government treat the issue of puppy dealing in England as seriously as they did scrap metal.

Sick Bulldog puppy © RSPCA

To try and hit the puppy trade as a whole - from organised illegal trafficking to opportunistic backstreet breeding - we believe more of the focus must be on selling. That’s why we’re calling for mandatory licensing for anyone selling puppies in England. This would mean:

  • Anyone selling a puppy must have a licence.
  • Strong penalties and fines for anyone caught selling a puppy without a licence.
  • A national database of puppy sellers (funded by licence fees) to aid enforcement.
  • All internet and offline advertisers (like Pets4Homes, PreLoved, Friday Ad) must display the licence number of the seller in order to list an advert.
  • Sellers must produce their licence when they sell a puppy.
  • This would mean a ban on third party puppy sales.

While this would not stop illegal trading altogether, it would help to remove the huge layer of unregulated puppy dealing we’re currently battling and give local authorities the tools they need to act.

Tackling this type of organised crime will not be easy, it will take legislative change, multi agency working and unprecedented levels of public support but we’re determined to put the puppy dealers out of business.


Crumpet the cockapoo puppy sleeping © RSPCA

Meet the victims


Crumpet at vets © RSPCA

Crumpet, a cockapoo puppy was bought by her new owner Kimberley, but just two weeks after she came home, Crumpet died.

Kimberley responded to an advert and spoke to a pleasant man before arranging to pick up Crumpet. The house was a typical semi-detached family home and the people seemed to really care about dogs. But even on the journey home Crumpet began retching and Kimberly noticed that he had scabs all over his body.

A few days later, she became worried as Crumpet deteriorated and rushed him to the vet where he was diagnosed with deadly and highly contagious parvovirus.

Unbeknownst to Kimberly, she had bought Crumpet from a notorious puppy dealer who was being investigated by us and police for illegally importing and selling sick and dying puppies. She said:

This experience has massively affected my family, especially my six year old daughter who loved Crumpet so much.


Nacho the pomeranian © RSPCA

Pomeranian puppy Nacho had been bought by Leanne as a 22nd birthday present to herself. But excitement soon turned to heartache as Nacho quickly became seriously ill and was rushed to the vets.

Leanne, was just one of hundreds of people duped by rogue puppy dealers posing as dog-loving breeders.

The day after getting Nacho home Leanne said her puppy was suffering from diarrhoea and rushed him straight to the vets. After two days of tests Nacho’s health was still deteriorating and it was found he was suffering from pneumonia. It was also found that he had a hernia between his heart and lungs and would need an operation to remove it.

Sadly, just six days later Nacho took a turn for the worse and Leanne made the difficult decision to put him to sleep.

She said:

I held him in my arms. He was just so tiny. All skin and bones. He was still gorgeous but just so very ill. The vet gave him the injection and he died there in my arms.


Street in a residentional area © RSPCA

Report a suspected dealer

Puppy dealers could be profiting from this cruel trade in your very street. One of the biggest cases of illegal puppy trading we uncovered only came to our attention after an attempted burglary where puppies were found at the property by police.

Suspicious activity could include:

  • Different puppies frequently being brought in and out of houses
  • Seemingly unoccupied houses with regular visitors and the sounds of dogs barking
  • A number of different vehicles and people visiting a seemingly residential property.

We need the public to be our eyes and ears. If you see something suspicious, please report it to your local police, local authority, trading standards and us on 0300 1234 999.