Hundreds of puppies are being smuggled into the United Kingdom to cope with the demand in the run up to Christmas, authorities have warned.
More than 100 puppies were seized in just one week during a covert operation at the United Kingdom border which the Dogs Trust charity fear is just the "top of the iceberg" as more are expected to be smuggled into the country undetected prior to the festive season.
Dogs Trust are giving advice on how to avoid purchasing puppies which are being smuggled into the country, with many animals experiencing "shocking" conditions as they enter the UK.
We're seeing a huge spike in online advertising and "trend buying" of fashionable breeds with Pugs, Dachshunds, English and French Bulldogs making up 82% of those admitted to Dogs Trust through our Puppy Pilot.
In 2016 officials found 688 "illegally landed" dogs, more than treble the recorded number in 2014. Seven cane corso pups reportedly had their ears and tails illegally cropped and docked with scissors and vodka.
Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden said: "Buying an illegally imported puppy could potentially cost well-meaning but unsuspecting families thousands of pounds in quarantine and vet bills and emotional heartache for the family if the puppy falls ill or worse, dies".
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They should ask to see the mother and pup together, and visit the new pup a couple of times and get paperwork before taking it home.
Report suspicious sellers and take new puppies to their own vet for a health check as soon as possible.
Do not buy a puppy that looks too small or underweight, or feel pressured into buying.
The charity also highlighted concerns over a "shocking new trend" of smuggling heavily pregnant bitches into the United Kingdom to give birth.
The maximum sentence for illegal importers is just three months under the Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals (Amendment) Order 2011. Miss Boyden added: 'We continue to be astounded at the lengths these deceptive breeders and dealers will go'.
Dogs Trust are also urging the government to improve legislation to help reduce the number of smuggled puppies form entering the United Kingdom, including increasing penalties for those found importing puppies and a "significant overhaul" of the pet checking system at ports.
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