A seven-month investigation led by the Trading Standards Wales Regional Investigation team has resulted in a multi-agency operation undertaken last week.

The operation saw 15 dogs seized due to injuries or serious suffering in the conditions they were found, as well as nearly 200 dogs being signed over by an alleged illegal puppy farmer in Wales. Assets of the seller have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act whilst the investigation continues.

Due to the nature of ongoing enquiries, further information is not being released on the action conducted by officers at this point, suffice to say it is a detailed case involving officers from the Local Authority, Dyfed Powys Police, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, Natural Resources Wales, RCVS and the RSPCA.

The dogs are currently being rehomed with the support of Dogs Trust, RSPCA, West Wales Poundies and Hope Rescue.

Gareth Walters, Trading Standards Wales Strategic Lead for animal health and welfare commented; “This is a successful outcome for the first of a number of operations planned and comes as a result of some significant partnership work supported by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team and Welsh Government and is critical in supporting Local Authorities who would be unable to deal with this level of criminality in isolation.

“Unlicensed puppy dealers prioritise profit over animal welfare – they want to generate the maximum amount of profit for the absolute minimum amount of effort and investment. The trade is attractive because of the large profits, with designer breed dogs having average price tags of £2,000, but often selling for £5,000 and stud dogs commanding fees even higher. As with other types of illicit trade, the people involved are often engaged in other criminal activity, including the distribution of illegal drugs, money laundering and tax avoidance. Dogs are just a commodity for them.

“To fight this problem, we have to work in partnership with other agencies, this is a great example of where a relatively small amount of funding into Trading Standards has enabled a much bigger outcome to be achieved.”

Clive Jones of National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (Wales) commented; “In recent years the industry has been infiltrated by unscrupulous individuals, often involved in other criminal activities, who sell puppies obtained from illegal puppy farms. The pandemic has increased demand and subsequently the profits and sharp practices of criminals. The team have done a tremendous job to get to this point, but it is still early days in terms of ongoing investigations and bringing these cases before the courts.

“Posing as breeders, unlicensed dealers advertise puppies in newspapers, magazines and, most commonly, online. They lure consumers by promoting the fact that the puppies are complete pedigrees; however, this does not guarantee quality. Many consumers then find themselves having to pay a high cost, both financially and emotionally, for puppies reared in awful circumstances. When this happens, consumers have little or no chance of receiving compensation, particularly as the majority of transactions involving puppies are cash in hand.”

Trading Standards Wales through the ongoing Dog Breeding Project are looking at a number of proposals with regards to existing legislation and future improvements that can be made to support the legitimate industry in Wales. The first part of this process will see the launch of an online .Gov.Wales information system that will provide a single point of reference for all things related to dog breeding in Wales. 

It is often the case that illegally bred dogs from unlicensed breeders are reared in appalling conditions, susceptible to disease and ill health without having proper measures in place. Puppies can be at risk of congenital health problems and may not have been vaccinated correctly, for example against rabies, therefore putting the health of other animals and the general public at risk.

Infectious diseases can spread easily on unlicensed puppy farms. One of the most common is Parvovirus, a highly contagious viral disease that can cause life-threatening illness. Little, if any, thought is given to the health and wellbeing of the animals and many are contained in small pens, meaning that they never see daylight. In addition to health issues, illegally farmed dogs can display a range of behavioural problems and miss out on legal requirements that legitimate commercial breeders are under a duty to ensure through socialisation and enhancement plans.

The more knowledge you have about what to consider when buying a new pet, the more you can protect yourself and play a part in stamping out this cruel practice. If you are planning to buy a new puppy, consider adopting from a refuge or find a legitimate breeder through an assured puppy breeder scheme and/or Kennel Club UK.

Be wary of online adverts for puppies. A free online tool which encourages the responsible breeding and buying of puppies and named the ‘Puppy Contract’ can be used both by dog breeders and by anyone thinking of buying a new puppy. It can be found at The Puppy Contract – for responsible puppy breeding and buying.

Anyone thinking of getting a new puppy should speak to their local veterinary practice for advice and use the Puppy Contract to avoid purchasing a puppy farmed dog. If a seller is not willing to provide the information listed in the Puppy Contract or allow you to see the puppy interacting with its mother, then you should walk away.

If you have concerns that your puppy may have been bred as a consequence of a puppy farm or are aware of someone who may be involved in an unlicensed puppy farm, similarly, contact Trading Standards at your local Council.

Any information on illegal dog breeding can be passed to Trading Standards Wales via the email wtsintel@newport.gov.uk or report it to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit http://crimestoppers-uk.org .