‘The New Drugs’: Northern Ireland Gateway to £ 150million Illegal Puppy Trade | Animal wellbeing


Northern Ireland has become a gateway for an ‘heinous’ illegal trade in millions of pounds of puppies in Britain in what animal welfare investigators have called the new drug trade.

A BBC and Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigation found puppies were being bred in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and illegally moved to Britain via Belfast port to meet the growing demand for pets during the Covid lockdown.

Superintendent Mike Flynn of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the BBC Spotlight: “For the puppy trade in Scotland I would say 90% of all problems come from Belfast. For me, these are the new drugs.

The USPCA believes criminal gangs have swapped their drug trafficking for illegal pet trafficking, which is estimated to be worth £ 150million a year.

Many of the puppies are raised in squalid conditions on illegal farms and are malnourished or sick and would not otherwise be sold, the USPCA has found. The animal welfare charity believes about a third of puppies die, disappointing their new owners, who can pay thousands of pounds for a pet.

The USPCA released a report, Puppy Dog Fortunes, exposing the scale and cruelty of the illegal puppy industry fueling the lockdown demand across the UK.

Puppies rescued from breeders by police in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, before the lockdown. Photograph: PSNI / PA

About 25% of all dogs in Britain are believed to have been purchased during the lockdown, with many buyers admitting to having done little research on their origin, according to the Kennel Club.

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots condemned the trade as “odious” and ordered an investigation.

USPCA chief executive Brendan Mullan told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster that the organization’s secret investigation, which helped inform the BBC’s Spotlight program, had evidence that animal traffickers sourced puppies from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. “We know 20 of these carriers do this. We make 120 dogs a week, and if you take the average price of £ 1,875 for a puppy in the UK, this individual has criminal revenues of almost £ 16 million a year.

The Spotlight program showed dealers swapping puppies at petrol stations and parking lots for onward transport to Scotland.

The BBC’s undercover team have identified a dealer who had sold sick and dying puppies on at least five occasions in Scotland. One of the dogs, purchased by the team, was found to carry two intestinal parasites, which would make its sale a criminal offense under Scottish law.

Mullan said undercover investigators found breeding bitches were often kept in squalid conditions, in cages, overbred and abused.

“This is causing unimaginable suffering to thousands of dogs and not to mention people at the other end of the supply chain, the unsuspecting public facing the human tragedy of the sick dogs they have purchased. Each of them have underlying health issues, they may seem healthy to begin with, but I can guarantee they will all get sick within weeks of purchase.

Poots said puppies, including 10 springer spaniels, had been intercepted at ports in Northern Ireland, but said it was “not possible or practical to stop every vehicle traveling through ports in Ireland North”.

Puppy Dog Fortunes discovered 30 unlicensed puppy farms in Northern Ireland, and said the pandemic had “prompted some illegal breeders to make shocking efforts to increase productivity,” including keeping animals in “battery condition. In cages.

He said the illegal trade was in part due to the price difference between puppies from Northern Ireland and Great Britain, but also said traffickers were able to exploit the lack of the law of Lucy in Northern Ireland, a law named after a King Charles spaniel who suffered several health problems after being caged for breeding on a Welsh puppy farm. The law prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under six months of age through a third party seller, such as a pet store or dealer.


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