Published: 08:04, 08 July 2020
| Updated: 14:54, 08 July 2020
Six 'terrified' puppies have been rescued after they were found drenched in oil and suffering from diarrhoea at the Port of Dover.
The three Maltese, two Havanese and one Bichon Frise puppies were aged only 11 weeks and victims of puppy smugglers who continue to operate and take advantage of the demand for dogs during the coronavirus lockdown.
WATCH: One of the puppies rescued at the Port of Dover
They were seized at the port, having been illegally imported from Romania - after a journey that would have taken more than 24 hours - despite lockdown restrictions in the UK preventing non-essential travel.
The six puppies had to be shaved because of the oil spill, which happened due to unsafe travelling conditions in the back of a van during the arduous journey across borders.
They are now in the care of Dogs Trust and will be rehomed responsibly when they are fit and able.
But the charity says since the start of lockdown dogs worth tens of thousands of pounds have been smuggled into the UK, destined to be sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Since March, when demand for puppies began increasing rapidly, Dogs Trust has rescued 43 dogs via its Puppy Pilot scheme that were illegally imported into the country from central and eastern Europe, with an estimated street value of £80,000.
The charity has also saved 12 heavily pregnant mums, who have given birth to 53 puppies worth around an additional £100,000 to the smugglers.
Now, the animal rescue charity is warning the public about the perils of buying dogs via online adverts and sharing the message: Don’t Be Dogfished.
It comes after Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increase by 120% when lockdown was announced, according to data from Propellernet.
Dogs Trust is also urging the Government to act to end this cruel trade, as promised in its recent manifesto, and for stronger penalties for puppy smugglers which will act as a deterrent for the trade.
Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust’s veterinary director, said: "It is absolutely heart-breaking that we continue to see dogs being illegally imported into the country, often in terrible conditions to make huge profits for cruel puppy smugglers.
"We might be in the midst of a pandemic, but these devious sellers will still use every trick in the book to scam unsuspecting dog lovers.
"Sadly, it’s all too easy to be Dogfished and it can be very difficult to know if you are buying a puppy that has been smuggled.
"We would advise you to always see a puppy with and interacting with their mum and go and see it more than once.
"Ask lots of questions, and ask to see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract.
"If you have any doubts or it feels too good to be true, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller."
Smuggled puppies often haven’t had the important early life experiences of socialisation with people and habituation with everyday objects which help prevent them being fearful in later life.
They are often forced to endure long journeys from Central and Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, with little to no food or water and no toilet breaks.
The Puppy Pilot scheme has rescued 1,167 dogs since it began in December 2015 with most popular breeds including Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Maltese and even larger breeds such as Chow Chows.
More by this authorSam Williams
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