Pet Advice ServicesUnlicensed breeders and illegal puppy traders

Unlicensed breeders and illegal puppy traders


FOUR PAWS and Animal Protection Services have joined forces to protect our four-legged friends and get justice for puppies and families who have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous breeders. The growing demand for dogs has contributed to an increase in the number of puppies bred and transported into the UK. Especially during lockdown.

Millions of puppies advertised online in classified ad site such as Pets4Homes, Gumtree and Facebook, come from across Europe and are often bred and transported in heartless conditions to the UK. And they could be yours at the click of a button.

Puppy trade map

By April 2021 there had been an 185% increase in the number of dogs and puppies advertised for sale online, compared to the previous year. As well as the volume of adverts, the prices soared too. Some breeds are now more than 150% more expensive then since lockdown began.

Puppies in cages
Image: caged sad puppies
The increase in demand has encouraged even more illegal breeding of puppies. In the mass breeding business, many dogs are bred in remote and filthy locations. Additionally the resulting pups may be separated too early from their mothers to start the journeys to their unsuspecting new owners. Unscrupulous breeders have meticulous ways of operating, which means you might end up buying a sick puppy coming from this trade without knowing it, where suitable conditions and veterinary attention are just an illusion.

When transported to the UK, they are usually accompanied by fake documents with false birth dates and vaccination stickers. Bringing untold pain and suffering to the anima and new family. As a result of this new puppy owners often find themselves with high veterinary bills, in addition to the untold emotional costs endured.

Puppy in vet care

Because of this growing trade, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS and prosecution charity, Animal Protection Services have joined forces to launch an online reporting system called Report Illegal Puppy Traders.

The online form allows concerned members of the public to report cases of unlicensed breeders and illegally imported puppies to the team. Investigators and prosecutors will scrutinize every report to build a case to take to court. In April, in a ground-breaking turn of events, 42 cases were taken to courts across the country by Animal Protection Services.

Emily Wilson, FOUR PAWS Head of Campaigns says of the partnership: “We are delighted to be working with Animal Protection Services to give a voice to the animals who are overlooked and seen simple as profit-making. Whilst FOUR PAWS advocates an #adoptdontshop approach to pet ownership, we understand that some people struggle to find the right pet for them, and we want to offer support to those that have suffered at the hands of those callous breeders and traders. We believe Report Illegal Puppy Traders will seek justice for victims of this low risk, high reward trade and demonstrate that such abuses cannot continue.”

The launch of the Report Illegal Puppy Traders comes after 20 cases of unlicensed breeders were heard at Lancaster Court earlier this year. A spokesperson from Animal Protection Services alludes to this being the tip of the iceberg: “We have detected around 40 potential unlicensed breeders in the Lancaster area. To hear so many cases is ground-breaking, and we hope it sends a clear signal that this objectification of animals is no longer ok.”

The FOUR PAWS Model Solution

FOUR PAWS has campaigned on the illegal puppy trade for many years and has created a Model Solution focusing on the introduction of full traceability of all breeders and sellers to allow greater transparency for potential buyers.

The Model Solution seeks the implementation of national digital Identification & Registration (I&R) databases which provide full traceability and identification of stakeholders throughout a dog’s lifecycle: breeder, seller, transporter, the microchipping vet, the registering qualified professional, as well as all consecutive owners. This process would make it easier to see which animals are from which breeding/seller establishment and full pet and seller traceability can be achieved.

Successful implementation of the Model Solution would render illegal puppy dealers unable to sell via their main channel to market, online classified sites. Anonymity remains a central problem of the illegal puppy trade and this increased transparency would allow buyers greater peace of mind that they are acquiring a healthy dog from a reputable source.

FOUR PAWS wants to hear from victims of the illegal puppy trade

If you have been affected by an unlicensed breeder, an illegally imported puppy or if you have witness something suspicious, please fill out the form on Report Illegal Puppy Traders and help FOUR PAWS and Animal Protection Services to clamp down on the trade. The team of investigators and expert prosecutors will seek justice for you, your family and the puppies that suffered at the hands of dishonest breeders.

Cute French bulldog

For more information please go to their website at



More article