A new drive to help crack down on puppy smuggling has been launched by Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, during a visit to the Stena Line Terminal at Belfast Harbour.
It is part of the wider ’Paws for Thought” campaign which aims to disrupt the trafficking of low welfare pups through Northern Ireland’s ports.
Promotional posters will be placed at ferry terminals in Belfast and Larne to show the grim realities of puppy smuggling and encourage people to report any signs of suspicious activity related to this trade. This will be supported by a targeted social media campaign.
Members of the public are also being asked to be vigilant when using Northern Ireland’s ferry ports and to contact the appropriate authority if they think they have any information which would help stop the illegal movement of dogs.
Speaking at the poster launch, Minister Poots said: “Puppy smugglers and traffickers transport puppies in poor conditions to sell them at an inflated price in Great Britain. Innocent animal lovers are often duped into believing these pups have come from a reputable breeder.
“My Department and partner agencies are leading the battle to stamp out this abhorrent trade. The recent seizure of over 60 animals, including puppies and a cat, by the PSNI at Belfast Harbour was a significant step in targeting those involved.
“But we need the public’s help to crack down on these highly organised crime gangs. I would encourage anyone with information about this criminal activity to pass it on to either my Department, the Harbour Police, councils or the PSNI.”
DAERA enforcement staff work continue to work in close partnership with the other statutory agencies, Belfast Harbour and Larne Port Teams, to conduct routine and targeted inspections, by tracking movements and utilising information received.
Under the initiative, DAERA has formed a multi-agency group with representatives from local councils, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Belfast Harbour Police, PSNI and ferry companies to discuss and cultivate better ways of working and address the significant issues created by illegal dog breeding and smuggling.
The Paws for Thought multi-agency group said: “Puppy smuggling into the UK is a significant issue and in Northern Ireland they can be transported into GB by ferry and sold on for huge profit. Money is the only motivation and no thought is given to the welfare of the puppies. We would urge members of the public who see something suspicious to report it.
“DAERA and its partner enforcement agencies involved in the #PawsForThought campaign are determined to investigate, detect and where possible prosecute offenders in order to protect the welfare of the animals which often suffer in this illegal trade.”