Scotland’s first K9 Conference to tackle the illegal puppy trade has opened in Edinburgh today.
Scotland’s animal welfare charity SPCA said it was continually dealing with the devastating effects of puppy farming and was determined to fight an industry it has branded “barbaric and cruel”.
The conference, which will bring together experts from across the UK and Ireland, will feature groundbreaking research by the Scottish SPCA and the University of Edinburgh demonstrating the effects of intensive breeding on canine health and behaviour.
New and designer dogs can fetch price tags on the market of up to £1000 each, driving an increase in unlicensed breeding.
A Dundee woman was found guilty last month of importing dogs from puppy farms in Ireland and selling them online, sparking fears that similar cases could crop up in the Capital.
Jaimie Colquhoun, 25, repeatedly offered animals for sale through the Gumtree website and met buyers in public car parks to carry out the transactions without a licence.
Scottish SPCA head of education and policy Gilly Mendes Ferreira said: “The barbaric and cruel trade in puppies needs to stop.
“Week after week, animal rescue organisations across the UK and Ireland and devastated owners are picking up the pieces of a multi-million pound industry, which treats these dogs as nothing more than commodities, with no concern at all for animal welfare.”
Ms Ferreira added: “Combating puppy farming is a key focus for our special investigations unit, which works with partners across the UK and Ireland to identify those involved.
“This conference and our research will take us a further step forwards as we work together to create a robust strategy to tackle this serious issue.”
Dr Jo Williams, clinical and health psychology senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Our research has now proven that dogs from puppy farms have more behavioural issues and are more likely to have medical conditions impacting their long-term health compared to dogs from other breeding backgrounds.
Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who launched the conference, said animal welfare was taken “extremely seriously”, with the Scottish Government determined to crack down on animal traffickers.
“As outlined in the Programme for Government, we will work with charities and enforcement agencies to take forward the recommendations on illegal importation and sale from ‘puppy farms’,” she said.
“This will include a national campaign to highlight the risk of buying puppies online and rehoming dogs from abroad.
“The collaborative approach to enforcement in Scotland is welcome and we will continue to work closely with Defra, the other devolved administrations, our operational partners including Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), the Scottish SPCA, local authorities and transport companies to tackle such illegal activities.