29 pups rescued in crackdown operation at Northern Ireland port

Dozens of pups have been rescued at a Northern Ireland port as part of a multi-agency crackdown against illegal puppy trafficking and Christmas puppy sales.

The crackdown is the latest in a significant series of seizures at Northern Ireland’s (NI) ports and is part of the ‘Paws for Thought’ initiative, where dogs and pups travelling through the ports are subject to welfare and transport checks prior to boarding.

Alleged discrepancies in the paperwork evidence provided by the transporter led to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) portal staff, in partnership with Belfast Harbour Police and Belfast City Council, rescuing 29 pups in the early hours of 15 December 2022, the government department said.

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The pups are now in the process of being rehomed.

The pups that were rescued at the port.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “At this time of year, the demand for a Christmas puppy is high, which fuels the trafficking of low welfare pups through our ports to sell them at an inflated price in Great Britain (GB).

"Innocent animal lovers are often duped into believing these pups have come from a reputable breeder. Quite often, pups that are being trafficked come from illegal breeding establishments known as ‘puppy farms’ where they are bred in horrendous conditions.

“We have zero tolerance to this type of activity – reputable breeders will be able to prove origin and destination and have all their paperwork in order.

“The Department with the support from partners agencies, including Belfast Harbour Police and Belfast City Council, is leading the battle to stamp out this abhorrent trade. The rescue of these 29 pups demonstrates the effectiveness of the multi-agency approach in targeting those involved.

“We would also like to extend our thanks to our portal staff for their diligence and swift action in this case.”

The Paws for Thought Group said: “We wish to reiterate our message that people think long and hard before deciding to get an animal this Christmas. Prospective dog owners should check the guidance available online before thinking about getting a pup. If you must buy a pup, only use a licenced breeder.”

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Whilst the enforcement activities undertaken by statutory agencies is critical in detecting and deterring the illegal trade in low welfare pups, the public’s help is essential to combating this abhorrent trade.

The Paws for Thought Group continued: “Anyone encountering anything suspicious, or with information about persons possibly involved in the illegal breeding and sale of pups, can report their concerns to the Department, Harbour Police, councils or the PSNI, or by emailing: [email protected]