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Posted: 17th September 2020

RSPCA calls for law change on puppy imports
The number of licences issued for commercial dog imports rose to 12,733 between June and August this year.
Figures confirm fears that demand for pets is fuelling the illegal puppy trade.

The RSPCA is calling for a change to the law to prevent illegal puppy imports after government figures revealed that the number more than doubled over summer.

The figures, released to the RSPCA in response to a parliamentary question, show that the number of licences issued for commercial dog imports rose from 5,964 between June and August in 2019 to 12,733 in the same period this year.

Several animal welfare organisations have voiced concerns about the increase in pets being taken on during lockdown, mostly due to more people being or working at home. RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said these latest figures imply that the rise is fuelling the trend in puppy imports:

"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," he said. "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.

“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," he added. "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."

In light of the new figures, the RSPCA is calling for a change in the law to close the loophole, which allows the illegal puppy trade to continue. Mr Sherwood 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.

He continued: "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."

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