Bringing puppies under six months old into the UK could be banned under strict new animal welfare standards proposed by the government.
The pushback against the “dark trade” of puppy smuggling will prevent puppies from being separated from their mothers prematurely, putting them at increased risk of disease and death, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said. They can currently be imported from the age of 15 weeks.
The importation of dogs with surgically cut ears or docked tails and highly pregnant dogs would also be prohibited.
The charity RSPCA said reports of ear clipping, a practice banned in the UK since 2006, have increased more than seven-fold in the past five years. Most of the affected dogs are said to have been through the painful procedure abroad.
Of the roughly 66,000 dogs imported to the UK last year, 843 puppies were confiscated at the border, up from 324 in 2019.
In one case, four eight week old Beagle pups – believed to have been illegally brought to the UK from Ireland – were found hungry and dehydrated in the back of an abandoned vehicle in London.
In another case, six young puppies in poor condition were confiscated in Dover port after being smuggled out of Romania.
The Covid pandemic and lockdowns appear to have sparked a huge surge in puppy demand in the UK, leading to skyrocketing prices and an unethical boom Black market breeding and deteriorating animal health.
Animal Welfare Secretary Zac Goldsmith said: “Puppy smuggling is a grim business and we are determined to act against it. Raising the minimum import age for puppies will help protect thousands of animals brought into the country each year and keep criminals from taking advantage of the growing demand for pets. “