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Easter Ross probe as warning issued on import of puppies

By Hector MacKenzie

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Police have assisted Highland Council staff investigating suspected cases of puppies being imported illegally.
Police have assisted Highland Council staff investigating suspected cases of puppies being imported illegally.

HIGHLAND Council is warning anyone considering buying a puppy to ensure they buy from reputable sources - after an enforcement visit to Easter Ross.

Concerns have been raised that people are illegally importing dogs from Europe to sell without the correct health checks or paperwork.

The council’s environmental health team is carrying out detailed investigation into a number of possible cases supported by Police Scotland and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Alan Yates, environmental health manager, said: “Our team has carried out two enforcement visits in the Easter Ross area today to investigate cases of puppies being illegally imported. This followed concerns being raised by vets after inspecting puppies brought in for routine health checks by their new owners.

"Officers from environmental health led the visits supported by officers from Police Scotland and APHA. At this stage I cannot comment further on the active investigation but I encourage anyone considering buying a puppy to ensure it is coming from a reputable source.”

Pet movement controls are in place to reduce the risk of exotic diseases from entering the UK, in particular rabies and Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm which can be carried by dogs and can have severe health implications if transmitted to humans.

Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the environment, development and infrastructure committee said: “It is very concerning to note that illegal importation is occurring in the area. This criminal activity can lead to risks to animal welfare but also to human health.

"I advise anyone buying a puppy to check the buyer and if possible see the puppy’s mother. Please don’t buy from someone you don’t know in a supermarket car park.

"A puppy can cost hundreds of pounds and unfortunately if found to be illegally imported buyers may have to pay quarantine costs or have the dog put down. If anyone has any concerns over a puppy they have recently bought please speak to their vet or The Highland Council’s Environmental Health Service on 01349 886603.”

APHA’s spokesperson said: “As a result of consumer demand for puppies at a young age, certain unscrupulous traders have sought to evade these controls, either through using falsified documentation or smuggling in order to import puppies for sale in the UK. APHA is taking an intelligence-led approach aimed at disrupting the illegal importation of puppies and abuses of the Pet Travel Scheme.

“Anyone found to have an illegally imported puppy could find themselves having to pay for costly quarantine and veterinary bills, or potentially having their pet put down.

To avoid this, it’s important to make some basic checks when buying a puppy:

• Buy only from reputable sources and check the health history.

• View the animal and its documentation before you buy.

• Try and see the puppy interact with its mother.

• If it was born outside of the UK it must have a pet passport or a veterinary certificate.

• If you have any doubts about an animal please speak to your vet and contact the Council’s Environmental Health team before agreeing to buy it.

For further advice see https://www.buyapuppysafely.org/

Detective Inspector Peter Mackenzie said: "Puppy farming and trafficking is a criminal activity which has serious implications on animal welfare.

"It is also cruel on the owner who could be left facing a heart-breaking situation if the dog is found to have been illegally imported into the UK.

"The unscrupulous people who carry out this activity do so in order to make money for themselves or in some cases to fund other criminal activity.

"We would urge people to ensure they only buy from reputable sources and to report any concerns they have about potentially illegal activity."

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