Guides & Checklists

Purchasing a Puppy – A guide

Since 2011 there has been a 300% increase in the number of puppies that are being imported illegally into the UK from puppy farms and puppy markets in Eastern Europe.  These puppies are being sold via adverts on the internet, in newspaper small ads and are generally a lot cheaper than UK bred puppies of the same breed.  These puppies are accompanied by false and forged documentation which leads buyers to believe they have been imported legally or bred in the UK.

The UK is a rabies free country and the rules and regulations surrounding animal imports are in place to protect this rabies free status. Puppies are being smuggled into the UK without first having been vaccinated against rabies or they have been given the vaccination too young, therefore making it ineffective and a breach of importation legislation.

Even if a puppy doesn’t have rabies, they may have been removed from their mother at an early age (potentially leading to behaviour issues). They may also have other serious health issues which have not been treated, as those selling the puppies are more interested in moving their ‘goods’ as quickly as possible, rather than the welfare of the animal.

Buying an illegally imported puppy can be costly

These puppies are normally discovered by UK vets after they are taken for their first check up. If found to have been illegally imported, the puppy will be taken into quarantine and the fees must be paid by the owners of the puppy, not the seller.  These fees could be as much as £1,000, meaning that in the end your ‘cheap’ puppy may not be that cheap (although you could seek to recover this cost from the seller through a civil court).

 Top tips to remember when buying a puppy

  • Be suspicious if the seller cannot show you the puppy with its mother and litter mates.  View the puppy where it was born
  • Get as much information about where the puppy has come from and beware if the seller is from outside the UK
  • If the puppy has been vaccinated, ask to see the documentation.  This must clearly state the veterinary practice and where this was carried out.  Be suspicious if the address of the veterinary practice is outside the UK
  • If the seller informs you that the puppy has been brought in from another country it must have a pet passport or veterinary certificate and be more than 15 weeks of age
  • NEVER agree to have the puppy delivered to your home address or to meet the seller to collect the puppy.  If the seller wants you to do this be very suspicious
  • NEVER pay for the puppy in advance
  • Always register your puppy’s microchip with a UK Database

Key Questions you should consider when buying imported puppies

  • Are they more than 15 weeks of age (a vet can tell the age by the dentition (teeth) of the puppy)?
  • Have they been health-checked prior to the importation and also passport stamped?
  • Were they micro-chipped prior to the rabies vaccination?  The first three digits of a microchip number identifies the country of chipping
  • Have they been imported via an approved route, e.g. Dover, Heathrow, Plymouth?
  • Have they received Tapeworm treatment more than 24 hours before arrival but less than 5 days previously?  The passport will be stamped, signed, dated and timed to indicate this

If anything has been changed in the passport – be suspicious.
If the treatment dates are exact to the day in the passport – be suspicious.

If you have any doubts about a puppy you are planning to purchase speak to your vet. If you suspect a puppy you have bought may have come from abroad and does not have a Pet Passport, it may be a contravention of UK Rabies Legislation.

WARNING:- You may purchase a cheap imported pet but it may end up costing you more with the cost of quarantine. A breach of any of the above importation rules could see your puppy being put into quarantine.

Importing Rescue Animals

Please also note, there a special rules that need to be followed when importing rescue Cats and Dogs to Great Britain from other Member States, as they normally cannot come in under the Pet Travel Scheme.

If you are a rescue organisation that brings in pets from Europe (including Southern Ireland) you have to comply with the commercial importation legislation which requires notification to APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) imports prior to travelling, Health Certificates and a post importation inspection.   The attached information sheet sets out what is required in addition to the pet passport – you can find more information about this here.