South Scotland

MSP Emma Harper calls for end to puppy trafficking 'horrors'

Holyrood debate Image copyright Peter Devlin
Image caption Ms Harper raised the issue of puppy trafficking in the Scottish Parliament

A south of Scotland MSP has urged Holyrood to help to bring an end to puppy trafficking in Scotland.

The SNP's Emma Harper told the Scottish Parliament it had been estimated the trade could be worth between £100m and £300m a year.

She said it was a "tax avoidance cash economy" being targeted by a special HM Revenue and Customs taskforce.

Ms Harper added that many hundreds, possibly thousands of puppies, were coming through the port of Cairnryan.

She said dogs were coming into the UK without legal documents including EU pet passports from "industrial-sized farms which don't support animal welfare practices".

"Scotland is a country of animal lovers and I believe that part of the task facing us is to make the public aware of the horrors of the trade and encourage best puppy purchasing practice," she said.

"Anyone buying a puppy should ensure that they see the dogs in a homely environment with the pup's mother and breeders should keep the pup until it is old enough to be rehomed.

"And they should insist on required sale documents."

She said no legitimate breeder would have any problem with such conditions.

"No-one should ever buy a puppy in a public place such as a car park and it should set alarm bells ringing if this is suggested by the seller," she added.

Image copyright Stena Line
Image caption The Scottish SPCA is working to disrupt puppy trafficking via Cairnryan

Her call was backed by numerous MSPs including fellow SNP MSP Christine Grahame who called for a campaign to raise awareness of the trade.

Conservative Oliver Mundell described puppy trafficking as a "blot on our welfare standards".

The conditions the animals were kept in was also highlighted by Labour MSP David Stewart.

"Puppies are held in mass breeding operations in dark and filthy conditions," he said. "They often do not receive sufficient food or water, let alone proper immunisation."

Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell said he would urge anyone who was thinking of buying a dog this Christmas to do so via a dog shelter.

He said conditions on some puppy farms failed to meet animal welfare codes.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she shared many of the concerns which had been raised.

She said the issue of human contact would be taken into account during the Scottish government's ongoing animal welfare review which would also look at the issue of third-party sales.

However, she said that local authorities did have powers over dog breeding and might need to be encouraged to use them.

'Seriously disrupted'

She added that many of the powers to deal with dog trafficking sat with the UK government but the Scottish government could encourage Westminster to consider the views voiced during this debate.

"The key message remains that the illegal trade in puppies from Ireland and elsewhere could be seriously disrupted if every single puppy buyer first considered rehoming an animal from a centre in Scotland," she said.

"Or if they must buy a puppy insist that they always see it first with its mother at the breeder's premises."

Ch Insp John Chisholm of the Scottish SPCA said it was working with a range of agencies to tackle the multi-million pound industry.

He said many of the trafficked pups developed diseases and died, which was extremely distressing for owners.

"Trafficked pups often look fine when they are purchased, but problems will begin to show at a later stage," he said.

"We want to remind anyone looking to buy a puppy over the festive period please only go to reputable breeders, a list of breeders can be provided by the Kennel Club."

To read more from the debate at Holyrood, visit our live page.

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