30 puppies rescued in Christmas swoop on illegal dog trade at Northern Ireland ports
More than 30 pups were intercepted travelling illegally from Northern Ireland to Britain in a major pre-Christmas operation against the trade.
The joint exercise was mounted at Larne and Belfast ports following concerns about illegal movements of commercial consignments of dogs.
It focused on the welfare of animals during transport, the identification of animals and the licensing and registration of dog breeding establishments.
In the case of dogs moving from the Republic of Ireland, checks were also made on compliance with the Pet Travel Scheme and relevant trade requirements.
The initiative between the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Belfast City Council resulted in more than 30 young dogs being intercepted.
Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen warned the illegal movement of dogs through Northern Ireland's ports will not be tolerated.
Ms McIlveen said: "The very productive joint working initiative between council animal welfare officers and my department's portal inspectors at Belfast and Larne ports over the past two weeks resulted in several hundred vehicles being checked and over 30 pups being either prevented from travelling or surrendered at the ports.
"This sends out a clear message that enforcement bodies will take whatever action necessary to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected, that illegal movement will not be tolerated and that legislative requirements are met."
The operation involved joint working between council animal welfare officers and inspectors from DAERA.
Checks were enhanced from early December in Belfast Port, where approximately 460 cars and 106 commercial vehicles were inspected.
In Larne Harbour 145 cars and 49 vans were inspected for animals.