The Scottish SPCA says the trade in illegal puppies is a major issue across the UK and Ireland
Twenty-seven puppies have been returned to Ireland after being discovered in a van at a port in Scotland.
The puppies were found locked in large wooden containers by Ports Police in Cairnryan following a random search.
The dogs, of various breeds, were brought to Scottish SPCA and are now in the care of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).
The dogs, believed to have been smuggled from Ireland were not microchipped - a legal requirement – and did not have the pet passports required to transport them to the UK.
An undercover Scottish SPCA inspector said the “illegal trade in puppies is still a major issue” across the UK and Ireland.
"Unfortunately, the puppy trade is big business in Scotland with thousands of dogs being brought into the country each year from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - in particular from large scale puppy farms,” said the inspector.
“They are then sold on at huge profit by the dealers.”
The Scottish SPCA said each of the puppies would have been sold for at least £600 (€680).
ISPCA Chief Inspector Conor Dowling said: “The manner in which these puppies were concealed illustrates the lengths to which these unscrupulous dealers will go in order to make money from unfortunate animals.”
“While most of these puppies might not have been of high value in Ireland, it is estimated that the entire consignment may have fetched over £10,000 (€11,340) on the British market,” he said.
“For some people, that potential profit outweighs the suffering caused to vulnerable puppies.”
He said the ISPCA will now make further enquiries into where the puppies came from and how they were transported.
“The puppies are currently receiving veterinary assessment at the ISPCA National Animal Centre in Longford,” he said.
“They are not yet available for adoption, but will be in the coming weeks.
“As always, we would like to appeal to anyone who is looking for a dog or puppy to please act responsibly and consider adopting from a rescue rather than going online to buy one.”
The undercover inspector warned that the illegal trade in puppies is a “major issue” with the welfare of the breeding bitch and puppies seriously compromised “due to intensive breeding regimes.”
“When trafficked pups reach their new owner via the dealers they often develop diseases such as parvo virus and giardia,” the inspector said.
“Often the young dogs die from these diseases which can be extremely distressing for the owners.”
Anyone thinking of buying a new pup is urged to only go to reputable breeders.
Pet owners are reminded to always meet the mother of any puppies that are for sale – and never buy a puppy from a car park or allow for home delivery without visiting the breeder’s premises.
Anyone who has purchased a puppy that shows any sign of illness or distress should take it to a vet immediately.
If you suspect an animal is being cruelly treated, neglected or abused, or if you see something suspicious, you can contact the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline in confidence on 1890 515 515 or report online at the ISPCA website.