Vets raise welfare concerns over illegally imported French Bulldog and Pug puppies

Advice when looking for your new puppy

French Bulldogs and Pugs are two of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, but the high demand for these dogs may be fuelling the illegal puppy trade.

Three in ten (29%) companion animal vets surveyed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) last year had seen puppies that they believed may have been brought into the country illegally.

By far the most commonly mentioned breed was the French Bulldog, with more than half (54%) of all vets who had suspected a case of illegal importation citing it, followed by Pugs (24%) and designer crossbreeds such as Cockapoos (18%). Other breeds mentioned by vets included Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus and Poodle crosses.

These findings are in line with the latest puppy smuggling investigation by the charity Dogs Trust, which revealed that 63% of puppies intercepted at the British border as part of the Puppy Pilot scheme between December 2015 and July 2018 were French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs and Dachshunds.

Unscrupulous breeders are cashing in on the high demand for fashionable breeds, according to BVA junior vice president Daniella Dos Santos.

"Vets see first-hand the tragic consequences resulting from puppies bred in deplorable conditions and taken away from their mothers at a very young age to undertake long, arduous journeys," she said. "They often suffer from disease, health problems and poor socialisation, leading to heartache and financial costs for the new owners."

Puppies that are brought into the UK should be a minimum of 15 weeks old, but Dogs Trust has seen pups as young as eight weeks old enduring journeys of over 30 hours in "horrendous conditions", the charity's veterinary director Paula Boyden said.

The #BreedtoBreathe campaign, launched by the BVA in January 2018, highlights the serious breed-specific health and welfare problems suffered by brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs -- such as difficulty breathing, eye disease and inability to mate or give birth naturally. The campaign encourages prospective dog owners to prioritise health over looks and choose a healthier breed or crossbreed instead.


To help new owners get a healthy, happy puppy from a responsible source, the BVA and Dogs Trust advise:


  1. Talk to your vet first, to get advice on the best breed for you and your family and any health or welfare issues it may be prone to.
  1. Use the Puppy Contract, available free online at This is full of information and guidance for prospective buyers.
  1. Always see the puppy interact with its mother and littermates and visit the puppy more than once.
  1. Ask the breeder lots of questions and expect them to ask you lots too. Walk away if the breeder suggests collecting the dog from somewhere that isn't the puppy's home.
  1. Don't buy a puppy from someone who is selling multiple breeds. A breeder that specialises in one breed will have a far better understanding of those dogs and their needs, and the ideal home for them.
  1. If a seller is not willing to provide the information listed in the Puppy Contract or allow you to see the puppy interacting with its mother, you should walk away and report the seller to the local Trading Standards or the RSPCA or Scottish SPCA.
  1. Instead of buying a puppy, consider rehoming one of the thousands of dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages waiting for homes at charities across the UK.
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