Dogs Trust warns people not to risk buying smuggled puppies this Christmas

Potential new puppy owners are being asked to think twice before shopping online for a new pet this Christmas.

The Dogs Trust has warned of a growing trend to search online ads for the perfect pooch, which it claims has created a "perfect storm" for puppy smugglers.

The animal welfare charity has blamed surging demand by families seeking a furry friend during the pandemic, combined with weak penalties for criminals.

It has reported a 60% increase in the number of pregnant dogs and puppies seized at UK borders since 2021

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at the Dogs Trust, said: "It's very easy, especially when you're looking for a puppy, to make decisions with your heart. But this is exactly the trap smugglers want you to fall into."

"Unknowingly buying a smuggled puppy could have very real consequences for the owner too. The puppy might be too young to have been legally imported or have health issues that you don't necessarily notice until too late."

Dogs can travel thousands of miles in cramped, dirty conditions, with little food and water, and then sold online, according to the charity.

The most smuggled breeds seized in the UK include: Dachshunds, French Bull Dogs, Pomeranians, and English Bulldogs.

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More than 2,000 puppies have been seized at the UK border since 2015 with an estimated equivalent market value of £3m.

And over 130 pregnant dogs have been seized since 2017, bearing around 600 puppies.

Meanwhile the cost of living crisis is putting pressure on animal welfare charities.

The Dogs Trust says pet owners are increasingly unable to afford their animals. Recently it announced owners had been asking about the process of giving up their dogs to be rehomed.

The charity does not advise people buy a puppy for Christmas, but has offered these Do's and Don'ts:

• Do ask to see mum and pup together
• Do visit your new pup more than once
• Do get all your pup's paperwork before going home
• Do check that the pup is at a legal age to be separated from their mum (over eight weeks old)
• Do walk away if you're at all unsure
• Do report all suspicious sellers or breeders to Trading Standards
• Don't meet anywhere that isn't the pup's home
• Don't buy a pup from anyone who can supply various breeds on demand
• Don't pay anything until you have met the pup in person
• Don't feel pressure to buy a puppy