French bulldog and Pug puppies top list of most illegally imported breeds, BVA and Dogs Trust findings reveal

15 January 2019

French bulldogs and Pugs top the list of dog breeds vets most commonly suspected of being imported illegally into the UK, statistics released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) one year on from the launch of its #BreedtoBreathe campaign reveal.

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that three in ten (29%) companion animal vets surveyed last year had seen puppies that they were concerned had been brought into the country illegally. By far the most commonly mentioned breed was the French Bulldog, with more than half (54%) of all vets who had suspected a case of illegal importation citing it alongside Pugs (24%) and designer crossbreeds such as Cockapoos (18%) as the three breeds they had most concerns about. Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus and Poodle crosses were other breeds mentioned by vets. 

The statistics mirror findings from Dogs Trust’s latest puppy smuggling investigation, which reported that 63% of puppies intercepted at the British border as part of the Puppy Pilot scheme between December 2015 and July 2018 were French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs and Dachshunds. 

Almost three-quarters (72%) of vets said their suspicions were raised by the client’s explanation of how or where they got the puppy. Around half (44%) were told the puppy had been brought from abroad, but they found it to be too young to have been imported legally. In more than a quarter of cases (28%), the puppy’s age did not appear to match the information on the pet passport, while in a similar number of cases the vet found a foreign microchip in a puppy who was too young to have been imported. Other reasons included poorly completed pet passports, suspicious vaccination records and poor health.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“The #BreedtoBreathe campaign highlighted the serious health and welfare issues that ‘cute’ flat-faced dogs suffer from, and we are extremely concerned that unscrupulous breeders are cashing in on the high demand for these and other trendy breeds.

“Vets see first-hand the tragic consequences resulting from puppies bred in deplorable conditions and taken away from their mothers at a very young age to undertake long, arduous journeys. They often suffer from disease, health problems and poor socialisation, leading to heartache and financial costs for the new owners.

“Owning a dog is a life-changing commitment and we'd advise anyone thinking about getting a dog to first speak to their local vet about the right breed for them and then use the free online Puppy Contract to ensure they get a happy, healthy and well-socialised puppy from a responsible breeder. We hope our top tips will help well-meaning dog owners get a puppy from a responsible source.”

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden said: 

“Since the changes to the Pet Travel Scheme in 2012 we have seen a significant increase in the number of underage dogs being brought into the country to be sold to unsuspecting owners. The legislation change meant that puppies should be a minimum of 15 weeks old, but we have seen dogs as young as eight weeks old enduring journeys of over 30 hours in horrendous conditions. 

“In most instances, owners are unaware of the horrors of their puppy’s early life, but we’re urging them to carefully consider the dog, where they’re getting them from and most importantly to walk away if they have any concerns. Importantly, they also need to flag any concerns to Trading Standards. By increasing the number of cases reported we stand a greater chance of Government hearing our pleas for changes to the Pet Travel Scheme to better protect the welfare of all dogs.” 

Seven tips to help prospective puppy owners get a healthy puppy through a responsible source 

  1. Talk to your vet first: Your local veterinary practice will be able to advise you on the best breed for you and your family and any health or welfare issues it may be prone to. 
  2. Use the Puppy Contract: The Puppy Contract (https://puppycontract.org.uk/) is a free tool that gives prospective buyers all the information they need and the questions to ask a breeder when buying a puppy, including vaccination, microchipping and health test records.
  3. Always see the puppy interact with its mother and littermates and make sure you go and visit the puppy more than once
  4. Ask the breeder lots of questions and expect them to ask you lots too: There should be a two-way exchange between you and the breeder. They should want their puppy to go to the best home. Walk away if the breeder suggests collecting the dog from somewhere that isn’t the puppy’s home.
  5. Don’t buy a puppy from someone who is selling multiple breeds: This activity could suggest suspicious practices and a breeder that specialises in one breed will have a far better understanding of those dogs and their needs, and the ideal home for them.
  6. Walk away and report suspicious activity: If a seller is not willing to provide the information listed in the Puppy Contract or allow you to see the puppy interacting with its mother, then you should walk away to avoid fuelling the illegal puppy trade. Report the seller to the local Trading Standards or the RSPCA (in England), the Scottish SPCA (in Scotland) or RSPCA (Cymru) in Wales
  7. Consider rehoming: There are thousands of dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages waiting for homes at charities across the UK, so consider adopting instead of buying a puppy

The #BreedtoBreathe campaign, launched in January 2018, seeks to highlight the serious breed-specific health and welfare problems brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs suffer from, such as difficulty breathing, eye disease and inability to mate or give birth naturally. It encourages prospective dog owners to prioritise health over looks and choose a healthier breed or crossbreed instead. 

In August 2018, as part of its pet travel policy, BVA called on the government to extend the waiting time post-rabies vaccination to 12 weeks and restrict the number of animals that can travel under the Pet Travel Scheme to five per non-commercial consignment rather than five per person to help reduce illegal trade in puppies for sale via the non-commercial route. 

Related BVA policy

BVA Media Office