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Bill Esterson MP joins charity taskforce to help stop “horrifying” puppy smuggling


Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has joined forces with the UK’s largest dog welfare charity to call on the Government to stop the illegal importation of puppies into the UK.

Following significant changes to pet travel after the end of the Brexit transition period, Dogs Trust is urging MPs to help stop puppy smuggling by joining their new parliamentary Puppy Smuggling Taskforce.

Every year thousands of puppies are illegally imported into Great Britain to then be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting dog lovers, having been transported thousands of miles across Europe with little water, no food, exercise or toilet breaks. Many suffer significant health problems and/or lifelong behavioural challenges, and some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.

For over six years the charity has been calling on Government to end puppy smuggling after exposing this abhorrent trade through four undercover investigations. Current legislation is not fit for purpose – every day of Government delay is causing more preventable suffering for innocent puppies.

The setting up the taskforce comes days after seven bulldog puppies were stolen from a house in Wigan. They had been asleep when the thieves struck in the early hours of the morning on February 2.

Mr Esterson said: “I am delighted to join the Puppy Smuggling Taskforce and support Dogs Trust in their efforts to raise awareness of and tackle the abhorrent and horrifying puppy smuggling trade. We can see from the Wigan incident that puppies are big business for criminal gangs and people who don’t have the animals’ best interests at heart.”

“At a time when demand for dogs in the UK has never been higher, I want to urge my constituents to really do their research before buying a puppy advertised for sale online, as it’s all too easy to be duped into buying a dog that’s been illegally smuggled into the country.”


“Dogs Trust has been campaigning on this issue for many years now, and I’m proud to be able to say I’m part of the Puppy Smuggling Taskforce to help put a stop to puppies needlessly suffering at the hands of criminals.”

Dogs Trust’s Veterinary Director Paula Boyden said: “Sadly, we continue to see more and more heart-breaking examples of puppies being illegally imported into the country. Puppy smugglers are making vast profits by exploiting innocent puppies, breeding and transporting them in appalling conditions to sell onto dog lovers here in the UK.”

“There has never been a more urgent need to end the appalling puppy smuggling trade. Enough is enough, Government must take immediate action as too many puppies are suffering at the hands of cruel traders and too many dog lovers are being left to pick up the pieces.”

“We are grateful to Bill Esterson MP for his support in joining the parliamentary Puppy Smuggling Taskforce to stop this cruel trade.”


Dogs Trust is calling on the Government to:

  1. Raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable.*

  1. Bring in tougher penalties for smuggling pups to deter deceitful sellers. Only a handful of cases have ever been prosecuted and you can get a longer sentence for smuggling cigarettes than you can for smuggling puppies.

To find out more about our Puppy Smuggling work, visit https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/news-events/issues-campaigns/puppy-smuggling/

Video explaining the puppy smuggling trade and information about our latest investigation into online adverts for puppies here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlxTqoCqWgI&feature=youtu.be

What to do to avoid being Dogfished

Sadly, it is all too easy to be scammed into buying a dog which may not be what it seems. We call this Dogfishing. Remember:

  • Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit more than once, even if it is via video call due to coronavirus restrictions.

  • Never pay a deposit up front without seeing the puppy in person.

  • Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more.

  • If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller.

For more information and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy advertised online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogfished

Together, with the support of the public, we can ‘Change the Tale’ for smuggled pups by being there to help when they need it most. For more information on how you can help visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/changethetale

About Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and normally cares for around 14,000 dogs across its network of 20 rehoming centres in the UK and one in Dublin. Dogs Trust has a non-destruction policy and will never put a healthy dog to sleep. The charity also focuses its efforts on understanding dogs and sharing that knowledge with the wider public to prevent problem behaviours that can result in relinquishment or abandonment. We are working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.


Top Pic:

MP Bill Esterson with his dog Othello who was a rescue dog from Dogs Trust.


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