New rules to clamp down on the “grim trade” of puppy smuggling and prevent cruelty to dogs are being proposed by the government.
The plans include raising the minimum age at which puppies can be imported from 15 weeks to six months and banning the importing of dogs with cropped ears or docked tails.
A ban on importing heavily pregnant dogs would also be brought in under the proposals, which aim to safeguard the welfare of thousands of dogs and puppies brought into the UK each year and are being put out for consultation.
More than 66,000 dogs were commercially imported into the UK last year, but evidence shows a recent rise in animals imported in low-welfare conditions and smuggling activity, the Environment Department (Defra) said.
The number of young puppies intercepted for not meeting the UK’s pet import rules jumped from 324 in 2019 to 843 in 2020.
Raising the minimum age for bringing puppies into the UK aims to ensure they are not separated from their mothers too early, which can put them at higher risk of developing illness or even dying.
The RSPCA has also recently reported a 620% rise in reports of dogs found to have their ears cropped in the past five years, a painful process banned in the UK since 2006 which involves surgically altering or removing a dog’s outer ears to make them look more aggressive.
The majority of these dogs are thought to have undergone the procedure abroad, and under the new rules they would be banned from entering the country, officials said.
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