Rogue dog breeders and pup traffickers attempt to transport low welfare pups via the two main ferry ports in Northern Ireland, to be offered for sale in England, Scotland, or Wales for huge profit. To evade detection during portal checks, traffickers will often obscure the true origins of the pups and make potentially false declarations. Quite often, innocent animal lovers are duped into believing these pups have come from a reputable breeder.

Working together to deter traffickers
Getting a puppy? ..Paws for Thought! - Do your homework, is the breeder legit?

To detect and deter these types of movements, a number of enforcement agencies across Northern Ireland have come together to create the Paws for Thought group. The Group contains representatives from Belfast Harbour Police, PSNI, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Northern Ireland councils, as well as the Department’s dedicated portal inspection and animal welfare teams. The Group also works very closely with teams from P&O and Stena Line, who facilitate and support enforcement activity at the Port of Belfast and the Port of Larne.

Getting a puppy? ..Paws for Thought! - It's probably a scam if your pup is sold from the back of a van! The objectives of the Group are to lead joined up, co-ordinated action to deter and disrupt rogue breeders and puppy traffickers. This is undertaken through routine and targeted checks at ferry terminals, as well as follow up activity to identify potential illegal breeding sites.

How to Report a Concern:


If you have a concern about illegal dog breeding activity or the welfare of pups and dogs, contact your council: Local Councils - Animal Welfare contacts.

Puppy smuggling is cruel and illegal! ..Paws for Thought! If you see something suspicious PLEASE report it.

Port of Belfast

If you witnessed suspicious activity or potential offences relating to the transportation of pups, report it to Belfast Harbour Police on 028 90533000 or call 101 and ask for Belfast Harbour Police.

Port of Larne

Likewise for Larne port members of the public should report their concerns to a member of staff or email

If you think you have come into contact with someone involved with trafficking pups, you can also report this to:

Reports can be made anonymously and any information will be passed to the relevant enforcement agency. Please note, this mailbox is operational during normal office hours only.

If your information relates to a current ferry crossing, please use the contact details for either Belfast or Larne above to ensure a rapid response.

For more info on Operation Paws for Thought, follow this link to see Newsletters Paws for thought newsletters.

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