RSPCA calling for law change as puppy imports more than double during summer


RSCPA calling for a change to the law to stop the importation of puppies from abroad which has soared during lockdown.

The latest figures for July and August, released by the Government in response to a parliamentary question, show that numbers of licences issued for the commercial import of dogs rose from last year:

  • 5,964 June-August in 2019
  • 12,733 June-August in 2020

This amounts to more than double from last year.

Staying at home has encouraged pet buying

Many welfare charities have speculated that the number of pets taken on during lockdown has risen due to people being at home more and working from home. These figures suggest that this rise in demand is fuelling a worrying trend in a potentially exploitative and damaging trade which causes suffering to young dogs.

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of RSCPA, said:

"These figures confirm our worries that the increase in the demand for pets during lockdown is fuelling this trade which puts puppies at very real risk of suffering.

"Buying an imported puppy leaves new owners open to the very real risk they are supporting cruel puppy farming, with the parents kept in awful conditions, used as breeding machines with sick and dying pups - and there is no real way of checking.

"Travelling long distances as a young pup is stressful and a real welfare issue. There are also risks of serious disease and future behaviour problems which can leave owners distraught. We in this country are used to being able to order exactly what we want which means if the breed of puppy is not available here, buyers go abroad. We want to encourage people to take their time and wait for the right animal and realise the benefits of rescuing a dog where great efforts are made to make sure you get the animal which is right for your family and circumstances.

"If people do choose to buy, there is always a risk of falling victim to poor breeders and unscrupulous puppy farms in this country too - which is why we always urge new owners to use the Puppy Contract."

Law changes to stop the puppy trade

RSPCA are calling for a change in the law to close this crucial loophole which allows the trade to continue.

Chris explained:

"The third-party sales ban came in this year, which is designed to ensure puppies bred and sold in this country are kept in a way which puts their welfare first. Breeders must meet licensing conditions which mean that the puppies must stay with the parents and be sold from the home.

"However, the current law means that breeders abroad can get a vendor's certificate to sell in this country as long as they're licensed to breed in their home country. There's no way of checking the conditions these puppies are kept in.

"We want a change in the law which changes the age at which a puppy can be sold from 15 weeks to 24 weeks. This would have a twofold effect: firstly, it reduces the value of the puppy when they are older which means that it makes it less attractive for people who are only interested in making money to take part in this trade; secondly, it's much easier to check the age of a puppy at six months than at 15 weeks, which makes it easier to enforce the law.

"This would go a long way to alleviating the suffering of these young animals."

Commercial import of dogs numbers

The number of Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHC) certificates issued (commercial imports of dogs):

  • Jan - 2,580 in 2020
  • Feb - 2,037 in 2019 vs. 2,373 in 2020
  • March - 2,393 in 2019 vs. 1,321 in 2020
  • April - 1,895 in 2019 vs. 660 in 2020
  • May - 2,244 in 2019 vs. 3,220 in 2020
  • June - 1,929 in 2019 vs. 3,967 in 2020
  • July - 2,081 in 2019 vs. 4,850 in 2020
  • August - 1,954 in 2019 vs. 3,916 in 2020

Find out everything you need to know if you're thinking about buying a puppy.