Beware imported puppies and kittens

Published: 8 December 2020


The Trading Standards team are warning people of an increase in problems with illegally imported animals

Derby City Council Trading Standards team are warning people who are thinking of buying a puppy or kitten to be aware of an increase in problems with illegally imported animals.

Sadly, puppies and kittens are being smuggled into the UK by unlicensed sellers and sold on to unsuspecting buyers, who then may have to pay significant amounts of money to sort out health problems that are not immediately apparent.

Smuggled animals may have been separated from their parents too soon or be kept in unsuitable conditions and it is impossible to tell if they have been bred responsibly from healthy parents. They are also unlikely to have been properly vaccinated against Rabies and can bring this serious disease into the country.  The UK is Rabies free and there are rules and regulations surrounding animal imports to keep it out.

If found to be illegally imported, puppies and kittens will be taken into quarantine.  The fees for this must be paid by the owners, not the seller, and can be in excess of £1000 meaning your cheap pet will cost you considerably more.

So, before you buy a puppy or kitten, Trading Standards are recommending buyers take the following steps:

Before visiting:

  • Research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, they should be licensed and on a public register with their local council.
  • Check contact details. Copy and paste the phone number into a search engine. If the number has been used on lots of different adverts for animals with different contact names, this may indicate that they are trying to hide their true identity
  • Check the animal’s age. Puppies and kittens must not be sold under 8 weeks old as they need to be microchipped, which cannot be done until the animal is 8 weeks old
  • Be wary of animals advertised as having a pet passport as they may have been imported.  Ask to see the passport and check the dates.
    • Before coming to the UK, puppies and kittens usually need a rabies vaccination at 12 weeks old which needs to have been given at least 3 weeks before travelling, meaning the animal must be at least 15 weeks old to travel from the EU and certain other countries, or seven months old from unlisted ‘third’ countries.
    • If they are advertised as younger than this but with a pet passport they should not be in the UK as they are unlikely to have been vaccinated properly
  • Check the animal’s health records. Ask to see records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping before you visit

When visiting:

  • Do not take up offers to meet somewhere convenient e.g. car parks or motorway services and be aware of meeting at empty shops or building as these are common methods used to make sales and hide poor breeding conditions
  • Make sure the mum is present - if mum is not available to meet, it’s unlikely the puppy or kitten was bred there.  Beware of the seller making excuses as to why mum is not there, for example she’s at the vet’s, asleep, or out for a walk
  • Check there isn’t a ‘fake’ mum – most fake mums don’t interact with the puppies as they fear the real mum returning
  • Watch out for puppies or kittens labelled as ‘rescue’ but with much higher than expected price tags
  • If you feel rushed or pressurised into parting with cash, walk away
  • Health problems observed at purchase are not normal and don’t be convinced otherwise


Cllr Jonathan Smale, Cabinet Member for Communities, Neighbourhoods and Streetpride said:

If you do wish to buy a puppy or kitten this Christmas we recommend going to a reputable breeder, a Kennel Club Assured Breeder if buying a pedigree dog or consider re-homing an animal from an animal rescue centre.

Overall, take your time and do your research. A bargain puppy may seem like a money saver but could prove much more costly down the line and cause heartbreak if it has to be put down.

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