A new operation has been launched to tackle the growing number of illegal puppy farms following a multi-agency investigation led by National Trading Standards and Trading Standards Wales.
The multi-agency operation began last week in Wales, with the seizure of 15 dogs which were found injured or seriously suffering due to their poor living conditions. Nearly 200 more dogs are being signed over by an alleged illegal puppy farmer in Wales. Assets of the seller have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act whilst the investigation continues.
The operation was spearheaded by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (Wales) and Trading Standards Wales. The dogs are currently being rehomed with the support of Dogs Trust, RSPCA, West Wales Poundies and Hope Rescue.
Enforcement action against unlicensed puppy dealers follows a sharp increase in illegal puppy farming, reported by National Trading Standards last week in its annual Consumer Harm Report. According to the Trading Standards intelligence database, puppy farming incidents more than tripled last year, with 1,220 logs reported in 2020/21. This is an increase of 881 from the previous year (339 intelligence logs were recorded in 2019/20).
Gareth Walters, Trading Standards Wales Strategic Lead for animal health and welfare said:
“Unlicensed puppy dealers prioritise profit over animal welfare in order to generate the maximum amount of profit for the absolute minimum amount of effort and investment. The trade is attractive because of the large profits, with designer breed dogs having average price tags of £2,000, but often selling for £5,000 and stud dogs commanding fees even higher. As with other types of illicit trade, the people involved are often engaged in other criminal activity, including the distribution of illegal drugs, money laundering and tax avoidance. Dogs are just a commodity.”
Clive Jones of National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (Wales) said:
“In recent years the dog breeding industry has been infiltrated by unscrupulous individuals, often involved in other criminal activities, who sell puppies obtained from illegal puppy farms. The pandemic has increased demand and subsequently the profits and sharp practices of criminals.
Posing as breeders, unlicensed dealers advertise puppies in newspapers, magazines and, most commonly, online. They lure consumers by promoting the fact that the puppies are complete pedigrees; however, this does not guarantee quality. Many consumers then find themselves having to pay a high cost, both financially and emotionally, for puppies reared in awful circumstances. When this happens, consumers have little or no chance of receiving compensation, particularly as the majority of transactions involving puppies are cash in hand.”
Illegal puppy farming increases the risk to animal welfare and has a big impact on fair trading due to mis-description and mis-selling. Consumer issues raised include poor puppy health through lack of care and proper hygiene, with some even subsequently dying from neglect. Puppies can be at risk of congenital health problems and may not have been vaccinated correctly, for example against rabies, therefore putting the health of other animals and the general public at risk.
Advice when buying a puppy
The more knowledge you have about what to consider when buying a new pet, the more you can protect yourself and play a part in stamping out this cruel practice. If you are planning to buy a new puppy, consider adopting from a refuge or find a legitimate breeder through an assured puppy breeder scheme and/or Kennel Club UK.
Be wary of online adverts for puppies. A free online tool which encourages the responsible breeding and buying of puppies and named the ‘Puppy Contract’ can be used both by dog breeders and by anyone thinking of buying a new puppy. It can be found at The Puppy Contract - for responsible puppy breeding and buying.
Anyone thinking of getting a new puppy should speak to their local veterinary practice for advice and use the Puppy Contract to avoid purchasing a puppy farmed dog. 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.
If you have concerns that your puppy may have been bred as a consequence of a puppy farm or are aware of someone who may be involved in an unlicensed puppy farm, contact Trading Standards at your local Council.
Any information on illegal dog breeding in Wales can be passed directly to the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (Wales) via the firstname.lastname@example.org report it to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit http://crimestoppers-uk.org.
Notes to Editors
About National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality.
About Trading Standards Wales
Trading Standards Wales remit is to respond to the demand for continuous improvement and to enhance consistency of service delivery in the trading standards service in Wales. This is achieved by working with others to promote the work of trading standards and trading standards practitioners to enhance the level of consumer protection in Wales. It works alongside Environmental Health Wales (EHW) under the umbrella of Public Protection Wales (PPW). As it is intended that TSW is more inclusive of the Trading Standards profession as a whole, it works closely with the Wales Branch of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).
Each of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities has one representative that sits on the group and this is normally the person that holds the highest post involved with direct Trading Standards service involvement at each local authority.
1.To promote inter-authority working and co-ordination to ensure consistency and achieve continuous improvement.
2.To respond and contribute to the developing consumer agenda of the UK Government, Welsh Government and WLGA.
3.To support the personal and professional development of Trading Standards Practitioners and support staff.
4.To work in partnership to encourage fair and consistent enforcement and service provision.
5.To work together with others to promote the safety, health and the economic well-being of communities.