Puppies not as precious as scrap metal under English law, claims RSPCA

RSPCA launches #ScrapThePuppyTrade campaign to bring in laws to protect puppies from callous and cruel puppy dealers

Press release: 12 October 2015

Puppies are being treated worse than scrap metal, according to the RSPCA which today launched a petition calling on the UK Government to clamp down on people selling sick dogs in England.

Dogs on a pile of scrap metal © RSPCA
Due to its low cost, low risk and high yield appeal, puppy dealing is an attractive option for people willing to make money at the expense of puppies’ health and welfare and the heartache of families up and down the country.

The charity says that more laws exist to regulate the trade in scrap metal than the puppies and has launched a petition calling on the Westminster to introduce the ‘Puppy Dealers Act’ in England and clampdown on puppy dealers in the same way.

RSPCA chief vet James Yeates said: “Puppy trafficking is big business with dealers getting rich and leaving a trail of dead puppies and heartbroken families in their wake.

“We believe these poor pups are bought in bulk by dealers looking for the highest profit margin. In many cases the puppies are too young to be away from their mothers and are sick when they are loaded onto vans, before travelling hundreds of miles.

“In 2013 the government brought in new laws to tackle the criminal scrap metal trade in England. But now it's puppies who are being traded like scrap with no regard for their welfare, or even if they live or die.

“It is far too easy to sell puppies and current laws are failing puppies and their parents. The RSPCA wants to see Westminster treat the issue of puppy dealing in England as seriously as they did scrap metal and license anyone who sells a puppy.”

The RSPCA is calling for mandatory licensing for anyone selling puppies in England to try to hit puppy trade as a whole - from organised illegal trafficking to opportunistic backstreet breeding. This would mean:

  • Anyone selling a puppy must have a licence.
  • Strong penalties & fines for anyone caught selling a puppy without a licence.
  • A national database of puppy sellers (funded by licence fees) to aid enforcement.
  • All internet and offline advertisers (like Pets4Homes, PreLoved, Friday Ad) must display the licence number of the seller in order to list an advert.

“While this would not stop illegal trading altogether, it would help to remove the huge layer of unregulated puppy dealing we’re currently battling, it would give local authorities the tools they need to act and improve protections for puppy buyers,” added James.

In response to a survey* carried out on behalf of the RSPCA in June 2015, more than 2 million (2,040,000) people* said they had bought a puppy in the last year. The RSPCA believes that huge numbers of puppies are being trafficked into the country from other EU countries to meet the high demand for pedigree and designer cross-breed puppies in the UK.

Only 63% of adults who have purchased a puppy within the last year surveyed were able to say they were confident that the person they bought the puppy from bred the puppy.

This week the RSPCA uncovered the deception by one set of dealers who made around £140,000 a month in undeclared cash duping unsuspecting members of the public and selling them sick and suffering puppies.

Under different guises this trio lied to buyers, telling them the puppies for sale had been bred in a homely, family environment and were the first litter. The reality was that weekly deliveries of pups arrived via the ferry from the Republic of Ireland and be kept in pods at a ‘holding’ address while advertised on the internet, before being sold from a network of rented residential properties set up to look like family homes.

Puppies that died were callously dumped in wheelie bins.

Nacho the Pomeranian puppy, a victim of the puppy trade
One victim of the deceit was Leanne Lamont from Glasgow (pictured). Her young Pomeranian puppy died in her arms just days after she travelled to England and unknowingly bought him from the underground puppy dealing ring. 

Leanne said: “I found the advert for the puppies online and everything seemed really good. They would only sell to loving homes, they would show outstanding examples of how tiny puppies should be bred and cared for. They seemed perfect.

“When I arrived at the house I was met by a woman who told me her auntie was the breeder. The house was very clean and everything looked fine. She gave the impression these puppies were coming from a loving family home.”

However Nacho was seriously ill and just days later took a turn for the worse and started having seizures and Leanne made the difficult decision to put her pet to sleep.

She said: “He was incredibly ill and I didn’t want him to be in pain any more. I held him in my arms. He was just so tiny. All skin and bones. He was still gorgeous but just so very ill. The vet gave him the injection and he died there in my arms.”

“They told me Nacho was 12 weeks old when I picked him up but I think he was closer to six weeks old. He was so ill. I just could not believe someone could be so cruel and calculating as those dealers.”

The RSPCA is now urging people to join help tell Westminster that puppies are more precious than pieces of metal by signing our petition at www.rspca.org.uk/scrapthepuppytrade.

Notes to editors:

* This study was conducted in Great Britain via TNS OnLineBus, an Internet omnibus survey. A sample of 4018 GB adults aged 16-64 were interviewed and interviewing was conducted by online self-completion from 16/06/2015 - 29/06/2015. The sample has been weighted to represent the adult population of Great Britain 16-64.


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