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millions made BBC Spotlight probe and USPCA report reveal shocking impact of illegal puppy industry

"If you come into Cairnryan with £20,000 worth of drugs you are going to go to jail; £20,000 worth of pups, you'll get a £500 fine."

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Sick and dying puppies are routinely being sold to unknowing buyers in Britain

Sick and dying puppies are routinely being sold to unknowing buyers in Britain

Sick and dying puppies are routinely being sold to unknowing buyers in Britain

A BBC Spotlight investigation has exposed the puppy trade in Northern Ireland and revealed how the north is used as a hub for illegal dog traders from the Republic of Ireland.

Tens of thousands of dogs have been moved to the north to be sold or distributed across the water to Great Britain during the pandemic due to the huge rise in demand for dogs, with millions having either been furloughed or working from home.

The Spotlight probe comes as a report was released today by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) detailing the scale and impact of Northern Ireland’s puppy industry.

The report, called Puppy Dog Fortunes, examines the role of both legal and illegal breeders, as well as third-party sellers and transporters in NI who have been cashing in on the high demand and have been making millions as a result, with puppies being sold for an average of £2,000 each.

The USPCA gathered intelligence which suggests that just one ‘licenced’ transporter moving 120 puppies per week, could expect to move £11.7m worth of animals per year.

One puppy dealer based in Coalisland, County Tyrone, who was confronted by Spotlight, was allegedly selling sick and dying puppies in Scotland.

Mike Flynn from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), speaking to Spotlight, said the organisation believes many of the puppies transported from Northern Ireland into Scotland originate from three large puppy-farming families in Northern Ireland.

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Pic: BBC

Pic: BBC

Pic: BBC

He added: "Last year we seized over 150 pups and at least 90% of them came over from Belfast.

"Whether they were bred in Northern Ireland or southern Ireland, that is the route they came through.

"To me it's the new drugs. If you come into Cairnryan with £20,000 worth of drugs you are going to go to jail; £20,000 worth of pups, you'll get a £500 fine."

Commenting on the USPCA report launched today, Chief Executive of the organisation, Brendan Mullan, said: “The illegal side of the puppy trade in Northern Ireland represents a sophisticated, interconnected web of criminal activity. There is significant need for targeted and focused enforcement in respect of all groups and individuals involved – the illegal breeders, transporters and dealers.

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“This is a cruel money-making industry that demonstrates no regard for the welfare of animals. This report aims to shine a much-needed light on the issue, as the first step in tackling it involves recognition of the scale and seriousness of the problem.

"We fear that this industry is teetering dangerously on the edge of being uncontrollable in the absence of more effective regulation and enforcement.”

DUP MLA Robin Newton, speaking at the event, said he continued to work on a Private Member’s Bill, an effective ‘Lucy’s Law’ for Northern Ireland, which would make it illegal to sell puppies and kittens under the age of six months old through third party dealers such as pets shops or commercial dealers if they had not been bred by the seller.

He said: “Animal cruelty is a matter of huge concern to the Northern Ireland public.

The welfare of dogs and pups is a particular worry and reports of illegal puppy farming horrifies the public. I’m pleased to be working on a Private Members’ Bill, Lucy’s Law for Northern Ireland, to address the matters.”

Lucy’s Law came into effect in April of last year in England, named after a malnourished puppy called Lucy who was rescued from a puppy farm in Wales in 2013.

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