This Christmas: Don’t fuel the cruel puppy smuggling trade

People planning to add a cute puppy to the family this Christmas need to be aware of dishonest pet breeders, sellers and smugglers.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards are warning residents not to fuel the cruel puppy smuggling trade. Some have false or forged documents which lead buyers to believe they have been imported legally, bred in the UK or are vaccinated.

Cllr Judith Heathcoat, Cabinet member for Trading Standards said: “The internet makes it easier for people to impulse buy a pet, but the lure of a quick sale also attracts many unscrupulous breeders and dealers to websites. This illegal trade surges in the run up to Christmas, so we are urging buyers to be extra cautious when looking to buy an animal via an online advert and if they have any concerns, walk away and report the seller to Trading Standards.”

Illegal puppies are normally discovered by vets after they are taken for their first check-up. If UK vets have any doubt about the legality of importation paperwork or the microchip originates outside of the UK, the vet has a legal obligation to report this to the local Trading Standards Service to be investigated.

Juliet Owens, a vet at Hook Norton Veterinarian Surgeons said:

“We would always recommend buying a pup from a reputable breeder and do your homework first. Make sure you visit a couple of times to meet the pups with their mother and make sure you are happy with the situation. If the situation feels wrong, then it probably is wrong. Do not buy any pup directly from the internet, from a motorway service station or any other unusual place. You may be buying a pup that has come from a puppy farm or has been illegally imported. You do not know about its health status, its welfare status or how old it actually is. Buying from puppy dealers encourages them to import more puppies and this perpetuates the situation.”

Illegally imported puppies will be taken into quarantine, and the fees must be paid by the owners of the puppy, not the seller. These fees could be in excess of £1000.

Puppy smugglers and unlicensed sellers are ready to take advantage of the high demand by illegally importing them into the country, neglecting their health and welfare and not properly vaccinating them - leading to steep vets’ bills and heartbreak for buyers.


Puppy Smuggling: A Tragedy Ignored

Dogs Trust, the UK's largest dog welfare charity have been investigating puppy smuggling since 2014. In the last few months, over 100 dogs have been seized in at the borders by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

The number of dogs coming to the UK from Central and Eastern Europe has skyrocketed. The charity launched a campaign against puppy smuggling following the continued shocking abuses of the Pet Travel Scheme since changes were introduced in 2012 which effectively opened the floodgates to allow corrupt dealers to traffic underage puppies into Great Britain in sickening conditions and without the required treatment

Dogs Trust ‘Buyer advice’


  1. Ask to see Mum and pup together
  2. Visit your new pup more than once
  3. Get all your pup’s paperwork before going home
  4. Walk away if you are at all unsure
  5. Report suspicious sellers or breeders
  6. Take your puppy to your own vet for a health check asap


  1. Meet anywhere that isn’t the pup’s home
  2. Buy a pup from anyone who can supply various breeds on demand
  3. Buy a pup that looks too young/small or underweight
  4. Feel pressure to buy a puppy
  5. Buy a pup that you suspect has been illegally imported

More information about Dogs Trust’s Puppy Smuggling campaign here: www.puppysmuggling.org.uk.