Pitiful victims of cruel puppy trade: Shivering in shopping trolleys at a Polish market, meet the underage pets that will be shipped for up to 33 hours and sold to British families
- An investigation reveals how puppies can be smuggled into the UK from Poland
- Dealers are able to obtain false documents for puppies as young as seven weeks
- Middlemen can then pass them off as British-bred to unsuspecting families
- Dogs must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated for rabies
- They must then wait another three weeks before being transported to the UK
Chained to shopping trolleys and crammed into cages in freezing conditions, these helpless puppies face a long and arduous journey.
From this slum Polish market, merciless dealers buy truckloads of frail but adorable dogs to be smuggled to the UK, where they are sold at huge profits to unsuspecting British families.
It is at the heart of a cruel, billion-pound trade that has seen thousands of dogs imported from Eastern Europe, many unvaccinated and in poor health.
A beagle puppy that the investigations obtained a fake birth certificate for. More than 3,200 puppies have been intercepted at the UK border since 2015, with around 22 per cent coming from Poland
The puppies are often bred in squalor and then shipped for up to 33 hours across the continent, often with no food and little water.
Unscrupulous middlemen then pass them off as British-bred to satisfy surging demand for family pets.
Dogs must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated for rabies, and then wait a further three weeks before they can be transported to the UK.
But a Daily Mail investigation can reveal the ease with which dealers are able to obtain false documents for puppies as young as seven weeks, allowing them to sneak through UK borders. Our undercover probe found:
- Two breeders at a Polish flea market who provided birth certificates falsifying their puppies’ ages so they could pass border checks;
- Another who revealed how his associates ‘had a deal’ with British breeders to smuggle whole litters in trucks to Britain during the spring, with gangs targeting younger pups because they have a higher sell-on value;
- Inexperienced or corrupt vets vaccinating underage dogs or giving false proof of jabs so they can be smuggled across the Channel;
- Ads on sites including Gumtree offering to ship underage puppies from Eastern Europe to the UK using ‘certified’ drivers for £250.
Underage puppies being sold in freezing cold conditions at Slomcyzn market in Poland
The findings sparked cross-party calls for ministers to stamp out the ‘abhorrent’ trade. Jim McMahon, Labour’s environment spokesman, said: ‘This investigation’s findings are shocking. No puppy should suffer in this way.’
More than 3,200 puppies have been intercepted at the UK border since 2015, with around 22 per cent coming from Poland, according to the Dogs Trust charity.
But Claire Calder, head of public affairs at Dogs Trust, said this was just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as hundreds more evade checks, while Christmas typically sparks a surge in online searches for puppies.
Undercover Mail reporters posing as British breeders visited a sprawling market in Slomczyn, a remote village around 23 miles from Warsaw, where puppy traders boasted of being able to fake birth certificates so underage dogs could be smuggled into the UK.
Slomczyn isn’t in any tourist guides for British travellers. But the market is one of the go-to destinations for international puppy smugglers.
It is mostly devoted to second-hand cars and clothes, but you can also take your pick of the most sought-after dog breeds – if you know where to look.
Jozef Nowak handles an eight-week-old labrador which he issued a fake birth certificate for to say it was four months old
Next to the main entrance is an association of breeders selling puppies at basement prices, often to the UK.
It is illegal to sell animals at markets in Poland, so the association owns the land it operates on, which is technically separate from the rest of the market.
But when our undercover reporters visited on a freezing Sunday morning last month, it didn’t take long to find those eager to bend the rules.
Dozens of dealers were gathered in pens of corrugated iron, selling cots, cages and cardboard boxes of shivering puppies.
The birth certificate obtained for an underage beagle puppy saying it is four months old instead of eight weeks old
They were able to drum up fake forms from an onsite ‘office’ in minutes. One trader, Arkadiusz Kazimierczak, offered an eight-week-old beagle for £110 – the average price in the UK is around £1,400 – adding: ‘The birth certificate would be that it is older, no problem’.
The Mail paid £9 for the certificate as a deposit and Mr Kazimierczak returned about ten minutes later with the paperwork, which included details of the puppy’s bloodline, breeder and kennel – but crucially altered its date of birth to make it appear 16 weeks old.
Another trader, Jozef Nowak, gave us a false birth certificate to make it appear that a seven-week-old labrador was 15 weeks old.
He offered the labrador for £170, although they can fetch up to £2,500 in the UK. A third breeder, Mariusz Sarna, revealed that his associates at the market were selling ‘whole litters’ to British breeders ‘all the time’ during the spring, smuggling them ‘by car, by trucks’.
Mr Sarna said he could also provide false birth certificates for his spaniels and encouraged us to ‘smuggle the whole litter’ as ‘it would be profitable’ to sell them abroad.
A former head vet in Poland later said inexperienced vets ‘will probably vaccinate’ underage puppies brought to them with fake birth certificates, allowing them to be transported to the UK.
Others will just forge vaccination documents – putting Britain at risk of rabies. Vaccinating underage dogs can also be ineffective.
The Mail chose not to vaccinate or buy the puppies from Slomczyn for ethical reasons.
Puppies at the Slomcyzn market are chained to shopping trolleys and crammed into cages in freezing conditions
There is no suggestion Mr Sarna, Mr Nowak, or Mr Kazimierczak have been directly involved in smuggling puppies to the UK.
But Polish dog shelters had also found breeders at Slomczyn providing false documents for underage dogs.
Michael Bizuk, of the Society for the Protection of Animals in Poland, said one breeder at Slomczyn had boasted of exporting dogs to Britain using fake birth and vaccination certificates.
Mr Bizuk said she had also advised on ‘tricks to lull customs officers’, including ‘cleaning the cage well’ before inspections and ‘making the puppies sleepy’.
Once in Britain, Eastern European dealers sell the puppies online or on to UK traders who pick them up from petrol stations or car parks.
A third of online puppy adverts in the UK are still thought to be for imported puppies, according to charity Four Paws UK. The Slomczyn traders did not respond to requests for comment.
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