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MP slams ‘cruel’ puppy smugglers bringing dogs into the North West

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has warned against buying dogs from unregulated dealers, saying unscrupulous breeders are inflicting cruelty on underage puppies being brought into the UK. It is thought that thousands of puppies are smuggled into the country each year to fuel the Christmas puppy trade, and Mr Esterson, whose own dog Othello was a rescue dog from the Dog’s Trust, said it was important for people to remember that the slogan “A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas” is as true today as it’s ever been. The MP met with representatives of the Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, which first coined the famous “A dog is for life” phrase, at Westminster to support the fight against puppy smuggling. The Dogs Trust has been investigating puppy smuggling since 2014, and through three undercover investigations has found that unscrupulous breeders take advantage of, and profit from, issues with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). As a result, underage puppies are being illegally imported into Great Britain from Central and Eastern Europe, and sold to unsuspecting members of the public.

Over the last few months, nearly 100 dogs were seized by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the borders. The Dogs Trust found that of the puppies who do survive the appalling conditions they are forced to travel in, many require emergency treatment – with dehydration and malnutrition among the horrific conditions they suffer from as a result of travelling for thousands of miles in cramped conditions, with no food or water.

Thanks to the charity’s Puppy Pilot scheme, which provides intervention and expert care to puppies seized at borders, the Dogs Trust has been able to save the lives of 94 per cent of the puppies coming into its care. Six per cent sadly passed away. The Dogs Trust has also seen examples of heavily pregnant dogs coming into Great Britain, showing that breeders are stooping even lower to flout the system, with no regard for the welfare of the bitch or her puppies. The charity has warned that although there is a rise in puppies illegally imported during the festive season, illegally imported puppies is a huge issue all year round. The organisation has issued advice to help anyone thinking of buying a puppy, to know what to look for, in a bid to stop buyers unwittingly fuelling the trade.

Mr Esterson said: “If you are thinking of getting a dog, do your research, or consider rehoming a dog instead of buying from a breeder. Puppies suffer the most harrowing of journeys at the hands of these cruel and unscrupulous dealers. “It’s imperative that the Government takes immediate action by enforcing proper checks at the ports and on-the-spot fines to deter these breeders and dealers, as well as introducing revised legislation as a priority when the UK leaves the EU. We really hope this will help to effectively regulate pet travel.

"I know what a good job the Dog's Trust do from personal experience. Our family pet, Othello is from the Dog's Trust in Huyton and their support has been invaluable. I hope that everyone will support what the Dog's Trust do and the Government will act on their call for action."

Adrian Burder, Dogs Trust CEO, said: “It’s a shame that we still have to remind people of our slogan, ‘A dog is for Life, not just for Christmas’ nearly 40 years on from its creation. We always encourage responsible rehoming, but as we’ve seen dealers will go to great lengths to dupe innocent people, making it increasingly difficult for people to spot an illegally smuggled puppy.

“Over the next 12 months, we will continue to push for proper enforcement at UK borders. We will also continue our Puppy Pilot scheme, which rescues puppies seized at borders, funds their quarantine and rehomes them responsibly. So far, this scheme has saved more than 600 puppies.

“We can’t thank Bill Esterson enough for his support, and we look forward to continuing to work together to tackle this issue, and make some much needed improvements in 2018 and when we leave the EU.”

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