USPCA calls for action as 20 designer pups seized in drive against illegal trade
There have been calls for a crackdown on illegal dog breeding in Northern Ireland and the Republic after 20 Irish-bred puppies were rescued in Scotland.
The tiny dogs, which began life in puppy farms across the border, were saved in the port of Cairnryan, having been ferried there by dealers who had travelled through Northern Ireland.
The animals, aged from four to eight weeks old, were discovered earlier this month crammed in the boot of a car.
Among the breeds found were shih tzus, bichon frises, cavalier King Charles spaniels, pugs and cocker spaniels.
USPCA welfare officers played a key role in the move to save the animals, called Operation Delphin - a multi-agency initiative intended to bring an end to the illegal trade in puppies.
According to the charity, the tiny dogs were far too young to travel any distance, never mind from the Republic, through Northern Ireland and then to Scotland.
They were also not accompanied by the proper paperwork demanded by authorities.
The 20 puppies and their mother were rescued from a consignment that also included increasingly popular mixed designer breeds such as cavachons and chihuahuas.
The operation was launched in response to the spike in demand for designer cross-breed and handbag dogs in recent years.
The USPCA, along with similar agencies in Republic of Ireland and Scotland and government authorities including HMRC, are committed to bringing an end to such abuse.
In a statement, the investigator assigned to Operation Delphin appealed for the public's help in ending the trade.
"The loss of this consignment represents a hit of around £10,000 to the dealer," they said.
"But co-ordinating successful rescues comes at a significant cost to this charity.
"This is the third such seizure in the past month, with more than 50 pups rescued from exploitation.
"The more resources at our disposal, the more effective that we can be in ending the shameful suffering caused by the treatment of young pups as commodities and not as companion animals. Please help us shine a light on this exploitation of vulnerable creatures taking place day and daily on our doorstep."
The puppies have since been checked by a vet and moved to the care of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which will soon launch an appeal to find them homes.