Puppies being illegally brought in to the country and sold to unsuspecting customers have been tracked down by trading standards officers in Nottinghamshire.
Many are brought in from Eastern Europe, and there are links to organised crime, with dogs selling for thousands of pounds, trading standards bosses have said.
Because they are sold without proper jabs, microchips or paperwork, some have to be placed into quarantine until they are old enough to receive rabies inoculation.
In 2020, 11 dogs were found to have been brought in illegally in Nottinghamshire.
Care worker Beverly Standen, 58, from Carlton, bought Kaz – a beagle puppy – online for £1,500 after she had been saving with her partner for a couple of years.
But just three weeks after she got it, she learned it had been brought in illegally, and had to be taken into quarantine until it could have its jabs, which she described as ‘heartbreaking’.
Although the dog had been advertised as being microchipped, it turned out to have only a Romanian microchip, and was too young to have been properly vaccinated.
So just days after she collected the puppy, Kaz had to be taken from her new home in Carlton to kennels to be put in quarantine, leaving Miss Standen with a further £1,200 bill.
She said: “When we bought it, we were told it had been vaccinated and microchipped. But when we checked out the microchip it turned out to be a Romanian microchip, and that’s when trading standards got involved.
“They did warn us that they were going to have to take the puppy away. I was at work and they phoned my partner and said they were coming to pick the puppy up, because it had a Romanian chip and had most likely been brought in from abroad.
“So they came to get Kaz and take her off to quarantine, and that’s where she’s been ever since.
“I know it’s our fault, because we didn’t do enough checks, but we’d been saving up for a couple of years and we came across this one and decided to go ahead with it.
“We owned a dog years ago, but we didn’t know anything about microchips or anything like that last time we had a dog, we didn’t realise what documentation was needed, but now it’s going to cost us £1,200 to get her back.
Fiona Needham is a team manager at Nottinghamshire Trading Standards, and said they receive tip-offs from a range of sources, and then go out to investigate.
She said: “We get involved with puppies that have been landed illegally in the UK because of the disease risk with them, in terms of rabies, so that’s why we get involved, to make sure we keep the UK rabies free.
“So we get notified that a puppy may have come into the country when it’s too young, or may not have had its jabs, then we have to pay a visit to the owners of the dog and potentially send the dog into quarantine kennels.
“At the moment, because of lockdown there is such a demand for puppies and dogs that the prices have gone through the roof for them. So as soon as you get something that’s worth more money than what it was, then people will try to circumnavigate the systems for how they should be bringing them into the UK.
Geoff Young is a trading standards officer at Nottinghamshire County Council, and said: “There’s a lot of Eastern Europeans that travel backwards and forwards and they will sometimes bring puppies back with them.
“You hear all the stories of them coming across from Calais to Dover and doping them up so they’re sleepy.
“It’s a known fact that where there is easy money to be made, organised crime will be there.
“For a lot of people it’s a very good living, and there are some people involved in organised crime that are doing it as well.
“Dogs have got to be 12 weeks before they can have their vaccination, and then there’s a three week observation period (before they can be sold) but we pick up dogs that are around 8 or 10 weeks old.
“It’s all breeds of dogs, but there are some that are more fashionable – Dachshund and chow chows at the moment.
“Once the dogs have had their jabs and been quarantined they are returned to the owners.
“These dogs that come from abroad, there’s no testing done on them for hip dysplasia or their eyes or conditions they might have. So you’re buying a cheap dog and a ticket to the vet every so often because there’s something else wrong with the dog. So what seems like a bargain really isn’t a bargain. It’s a product, it’s just £1,500 on legs.”
He said the key for people looking to buy a puppy was research – make sure the seller is a reputable breeder.
Ms Needham continued: “A breeder in the UK will be a licensed breeder by their local council or the Kennel Club. So we’re encouraging people to go to reputable buyers as opposed to buying a puppy from someone on Facebook that they don’t know.
“If a dog seems a bargain in terms of price then there’s usually a reason for that. It is very distressing, you don’t want to have your dog taken off you when you’ve just bought it, especially a little puppy.”