Terrified puppies found drenched in oil in back of van seized at Dover

Terrified puppies are found drenched in oil in the back of a van at Dover as charity reveals 43 dogs being smuggled to unsuspecting UK buyers were rescued during lockdown

  • Dogs Trust rescued dozens of puppies with a street value of around £80,000
  • Charity warned public about buying pets online, as demand spikes in lockdown
  • In latest bust, six puppies were found covered in engine oil at the port of Dover
  • It also saved 12 heavily pregnant mothers, who have given birth to 53 puppies

Terrified puppies were found drenched in oil in the back of a van as a charity revealed 43 dogs being smuggled to unsuspecting UK buyers have been rescued during lockdown.

Dogs Trust has warned the public about the dangers of buying pets via online adverts, saying demand has spiked while people have been working from home. 

The animal welfare charity rescued dozens of puppies being illegally imported into the UK from central and eastern Europe with a street value of around £80,000 since 23 March.

Three Maltese puppies who were found drenched in oil in the back of a van in Dover as they were being smuggled, pictured after their rescue

In their latest bust, a group of six puppies were found covered in sticky old engine oil and seized at the port of Dover, after being smuggled from Romania in a journey that would have taken over 24 hours.

The three Maltese, two Havanese and one Bichon Frise pups were found in an appalling condition, suffering from diarrhoea, and had to be shaved due to the oil spill, which is thought to have occurred from unsafe travelling conditions.

They are now being taken care of by the charity and will be rehomed when ‘fit and able’.

Dogs Trust said the incident is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and called for the Government to ‘act now to end this cruel trade’. 

It also reported a huge spike in demand for puppies while millions work from home, citing a 120 per cent increase in Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ when lockdown was announced, according to data from Propellernet. 

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust’s Veterinary Director, said: ‘It is absolutely heart-breaking that we continue to see dogs being illegally imported into the country, often in terrible conditions to make huge profits for cruel puppy smugglers.

One of the puppies pictured being washed, after it was found drenched in engine oil. Dogs Trust said the incident is the ‘tip of the iceberg’

Three of the smuggled dogs pictured in a cage, after their rescue. The animal welfare charity has rescued dozens of puppies being illegally imported into the UK since 23 March


One of the puppies smuggled from Romania, left, and a Maltese who was also seized in the bust, right. They are now being taken care of by the charity and will be rehomed when able

‘We might be in the midst of a pandemic, but these devious sellers will still use every trick in the book to scam unsuspecting dog lovers.

‘Sadly, it’s all too easy to be Dogfished and it can be very difficult to know if you are buying a puppy that has been smuggled. We would advise you to always see a puppy with and interacting with their mum and go and see it more than once.’

The charity has also saved 12 heavily pregnant mothers, who have given birth to 53 puppies worth around an additional £100,000 to smugglers. 

Ms Boyden added: ‘Ask lots of questions, and ask to see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract. 

A puppy smuggled from Romania. The charity has also saved 12 heavily pregnant mothers, who have given birth to 53 puppies, worth around an additional £100,000 to smugglers


Two of the puppies seized in the operation. They were found in an appalling condition, suffering from diarrhoea, and had to be shaved due to the oil spill

‘If you have any doubts or it feels too good to be true, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller.’

The charity is demanding every dog have a rabies test before entering the UK and an incubation period, in order to increase the minimum age for importing dogs.

Dogs Trust is also calling for visual checks at ports and stronger penalties for puppy smugglers caught illegally importing dogs into the country.

On how to avoid being ‘Dogfished’, where potential owners are scammed into buying smuggled dogs online, the trust advised to always see the puppy and their mother at home, ask lots of questions and view all the paperwork.

The Dogs Trust’s Puppy Pilot scheme has rescued 1,167 dogs since it began in December 2015, with the most popular breeds including dachshunds, French bulldogs, Maltese and even larger breeds such as chow chows. 

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