EARS have been raised about the risk of rabies from illegally imported puppies sold online by unscrupulous breeders.
Yorkshire vet Lara Clarkson is warning of the potential risks of buying a online after she spotted a potential rabies risk when a newly-purchased Shih Tzu puppy was brought to her surgery, Keighley Vets4Pets, for a check-up.
The puppy had been advertised online and a Keighley family had no idea it had been born over 1500 miles away in Lithuania.
It emerged that the puppy had been illegally imported to the UK with a false pet passport and had not been properly vaccinated against rabies.
Surgery owner and vet, Lara Clarkson, said: “Rabies is a disease that kills people. We don’t have it in the UK, but it is a problem abroad.
“Smuggling puppies in to the country puts not just dogs in danger, but human lives too. Luckily we spotted the potential risk and isolated the puppy before it came in to contact with any other dogs or people.”
The family paid for this puppy in good faith and travelled to Cambridgeshire to pick it up after seeing the advert.
Within 24 hours they had to decide whether to pay expensive quarantine kennel fees or have their new pet put to sleep. There is no suggestion that the puppy actually had rabies.
Ms Clarkson added: “This poor little pup will have been taken from its mother at far too young an age, then had to endure a 20 to 30 hour journey to get here. At just a couple of months old we then had to put it to sleep. It’s heart-breaking for veterinary staff to have to deal with cases like this.
“We strongly advise anyone thinking of getting a puppy to ask to see the rest of the litter and the puppy’s mother, so you know for sure that it has been bred in this country. There is absolutely no need to be putting puppies through such a cruel experience when our local rehoming centres are crying out for owners.”
Robin Hargreaves, President of the British Veterinary Association, told the Yorkshire Post: “This incredibly sad case highlights just how important it is to do as much research as possible before buying a new family pet. We wholeheartedly endorse the message that you should see a puppy with its mother before buying.”
Mr Hargreaves, who hails from Malham, North Yorkshire, urged new puppy owners to visit www.puppycontract.org.uk
He added: “Changes to the pet travel rules have resulted in many more puppies coming in to the UK at a younger age meaning they are easier to market and sell. We are concerned that the non-commercial pet movement rules are being abused by those bringing in puppies to sell and we have raised our concerns with the government.
“Although the risk of rabies coming into the UK remains very low we cannot take any chances so we would urge people to be very careful about choosing a new puppy, and to make sure they know where and how it has been bred.”
An RSPCA spokesperson said the charity had “great concerns” about illegally imported puppies.
“These puppies are often not old enough to be separated from their mothers, have been transported hundreds if not thousands of miles across continents and have not been vaccinated so are not protected against diseases which can cause terrible suffering and even death.
“The issue has been raised by the RSPCA with leading MPs and we will be writing to the Minister. If you really must buy a puppy, do your research.
“Always make sure you see the puppy with its mother in the place where it’s been living and never, ever agree to meet someone in car park or similar.”