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Almost 100 puppies rescued in ‘shocking example’ of illegal puppy trade

Two shipments intercepted in early hours of Tuesday morning as part of Operation Delphin, with traffickers likely to be seeking huge profits from the pups. Almost 100 puppies were rescued at Holyhead Port in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency operation tackling illegal animal importation.

The incident has been labelled a "shocking example" of the scale of the puppy trade, with the puppies - of various breeds including Beagles, Basset Hounds, Labradoodles and Pomeranians - treated as “cash bonanza” for organised criminal groups.

Following an intelligence-led move, two consignments of puppies were intercepted by Border Force as part of the partnership-driven operation. They were on two separate ferries arriving at Holyhead from Dublin on 15th November. On the second vehicle, an attempt had been made to conceal the transported puppies behind bales of wood shavings.

The puppies were travelling in hugely inappropriate conditions, with modes of transport not ventilated, food and water not provided and the animals often kept in filthy conditions. Most were believed to be six or seven weeks old.

After an initial veterinary inspection, the puppies were deemed fit to travel back, and were returned to the Republic of Ireland, where they are now in DSPCA care. Sadly, two were later identified to have developed canine parvovirus and are under veterinary care, but the other dogs will soon be available for re-homing.

Ian Briggs, of RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “These poor puppies were being carted into Wales in deeply inappropriate conditions in the early hours of the morning. Sadly, to unscrupulous dealers, these young pups are nothing more than a cash bonanza - and dealers would have been targeting tens of thousands of pounds from these shipments. This is another shocking example of people being readily prepared to act illegally and compromise the welfare of defenceless animals to make a quick buck - but, fortunately, they were stopped in their tracks. The RSPCA was delighted to be able to work so closely with a number of partner agencies to target these puppy dealers, and their involvement with us demonstrates the importance of working together in the interests of animal welfare. We are hugely grateful as to the commitment they have shown this critical issue. We believe thousands of unsuspecting buyers purchase puppies who have been imported in shocking conditions, handing huge profits to unscrupulous traders.”

Gareth Pritchard, Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales Police and NPCC Lead for Dangerous Dogs and Companion Animals, said: “There is concern from many police Forces about how criminals are seeking to make money from illegal and inappropriate puppy importation. These activities can cause severe animal welfare problems and provide revenue for criminals. We are pleased to work with the RSCPA on this important operation and the recent activity does demonstrate the scale of the problem. We will continue our discussions with the Welsh Government and DEFRA to seek improved controls on importation.”

Brian Gillen, CEO of the DSPCA, added: “We are delighted with the outcome of this operation. We believe that cooperating with agencies on both sides of the Irish Sea in sharing intelligence, resources and cooperating together will ultimately prevail against those who are involved in this disgusting, greedy trade.”

Under the umbrella of Operation Delphin, the RSPCA is working in partnership with a number of other agencies including the ISPCA; DSPCA; SSPCA; USPCA; Veterinary Surgeons; Border Force; Local Authorities; namely Isle of Anglesey County Council and Pembrokeshire County Council; the Police; HMRC; Welsh Government; APHA; and other agencies, to target illegal puppy traders.

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