Illegal Puppy Trade

Blog: The Dark Reality of Illegal Puppy Trade in the UK and Europe

The illegal puppy trade is a growing problem in the UK and across Europe, driven by high demand and substantial financial gain. This cruel and clandestine industry not only causes immense suffering to the animals involved but also poses significant risks to public health and the wider community. This article sheds light on the dark reality of the illegal puppy trade, its impact, and the measures being taken to combat it.

The Scale of the Problem

The illegal puppy trade is a lucrative business, with estimates suggesting it is worth millions of pounds annually. This trade often involves the smuggling of puppies across borders, particularly from Eastern European countries such as Romania, Hungary, and Poland, where breeding standards are less regulated​.

The Conditions

Puppies bred for the illegal trade are typically raised in horrific conditions. They are often kept in overcrowded, unsanitary environments with little to no veterinary care. Malnutrition and disease are rampant, and many puppies suffer from genetic disorders due to inbreeding. The journey to the UK or other European countries is equally harrowing, with puppies transported in cramped, dirty vehicles, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation​.

Health and Behavioural Issues

Puppies from illegal trade frequently arrive in their new homes with severe health problems, including parvovirus, distemper, and other contagious diseases. These health issues can lead to significant veterinary costs for unsuspecting buyers and pose a risk of disease spread to other pets. Furthermore, puppies that survive these traumatic experiences often suffer from behavioural issues, including fearfulness, aggression, and difficulty adjusting to normal family life​.

The Human Cost

The illegal puppy trade also has a significant human cost. Buyers often pay substantial sums for what they believe to be healthy, well-bred puppies, only to face heartache and financial burden when their new pets fall ill or die shortly after purchase. This trade is also linked to organised crime, including drug trafficking and money laundering, which further endangers communities​.

Legal and Regulatory Efforts

In recent years, there have been increased efforts to combat the illegal puppy trade. In the UK, laws such as Lucy’s Law, implemented in April 2020, ban the sale of puppies and kittens by third-party sellers, aiming to end the commercial puppy trade and promote responsible breeding.

The Role of Animal Welfare Organisations

Animal welfare organisations play a crucial role in tackling the illegal puppy trade. Organisations such as the Animal Welfare Investigations Project (AWIP) conduct investigations to expose illegal breeding operations and lobby for stronger legislation and enforcement.

What You Can Do

Combatting the illegal puppy trade requires collective effort. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Adopt, Don’t Shop: Consider adopting a pet from a reputable rescue organisation instead of buying from breeders.
  2. Research Breeders: If you choose to buy, ensure the breeder is licensed and reputable. Visit the breeder’s premises, meet the puppy’s parents, and ask for veterinary records.
  3. Report Suspicious Activity: If you suspect illegal puppy trading, you should report it to local authorities. You can also report puppy farming to AWIP.
  4. Raise Awareness: Educate others about the dangers and cruelty of the illegal puppy trade and promote responsible pet ownership.


The illegal puppy trade is a dark and distressing reality that causes immense suffering to animals and significant harm to communities. Through legislation, the efforts of animal welfare organisations, and responsible pet ownership, we can work towards eradicating this cruel industry. By staying informed and taking action, we can help ensure a brighter future for all pets.

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Jacob Lloyd Executive Director
Jacob Lloyd is the Executive Director of Animal Welfare Investigations Project. He has experience in conducting covert investigations on organised animal cruelty. He is a Certified Animal Cruelty Investigator through the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Institute (LETI) in the United States.