One in three vets who treat pets have seen puppies they believe to have been illegally imported from overseas in the last year, according to figures released by the UK's leading body for vets the British Veterinary Association (BVA). BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession, which surveyed over 1,000 vets from across the UK, revealed that vets’ suspicions had been raised for several reasons including foreign microchips and the puppy’s age not matching the age given in its passports, with some vets also citing the puppy’s health as a problem after seeing cases of parvovirus and kennel cough.

The most common breeds suspected by vets to have been illegally imported are those that are in hot demand, made popular by celebrity owners or promoted through merchandise. Half of vets surveyed voiced concerns about illegal imports of French bulldog puppies, with Pugs (29%) and Chihuahuas (16%) coming in as the second and third most common.

Vet Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“Illegal importers only care about profit, not puppy welfare. As vets, we’ve heard awful stories of people buying puppies only for their puppy to be dead 24 hours later because of the way it was bred and cared for in its early days outside of the UK.

“It’s extremely concerning that we’re seeing so many flat-faced breeds, like French bulldogs, being brought into the country given the serious breathing and health issues that they already suffer from, let alone the added disease risks associated with illegal imports.”

Illegally imported puppies have often been poorly bred, without the correct vaccinations or health checks needed, which can result in life-threatening but preventable illnesses like parvovirus and giardia. Often owners are not aware of their puppy’s background and buy an unwell puppy that needs extensive veterinary care, or in the worst cases, euthanasia.

BVA’s findings come at a time when potential owners may be considering getting a puppy for Christmas. BVA President Gudrun Ravetz continued:

“A dog should never be bought ‘for Christmas’ as it is a stressful time of year with lots going on that can unsettle and distress pets.

“It might sound silly, but dog ownership begins before you even own a dog! It’s a life-changing commitment and we'd advise anyone thinking about getting a dog to speak to their local vet first and use helpful tools like the online ‘Puppy Contract’ to make sure they buy a happy, healthy puppy.”