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

15 January 2019

BVA and Dogs Trust have issued top tips to help prospective owners get a healthy, happy puppy from a responsible source

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.

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.

Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

#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.

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.

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

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

  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 ( 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
    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 links

Related BVA policy