Puppy buyers warned of the risks of purchasing illegally-imported dogs

Date published: 09 May 2016

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) today reminded anyone buying pet dogs, which have come from outside the UK, that the animals must comply with strict legal requirements in order to reduce the risk of serious diseases such as rabies.

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A spokesperson for the Department warned that bringing a pup into the family home, which has been bred in a country in which rabies is still present and which has not been properly vaccinated, can potentially put family members and others in close contact with the dog at serious risk. Rabies is still present in many European countries.

Owners of all dogs entering Northern Ireland from outside the UK, including from mainland Europe, must adhere to the relevant legal requirements which are in place to provide protection for everyone. When entering Northern Ireland from another EU or non-EU listed country, your pet dog will require the following:  

  • be at least 15 weeks old
  • have been microchipped
  • have been correctly vaccinated against rabies
  • have been treated for tapeworm (unless the dog comes directly from Finland, Republic of Ireland, Malta or Norway)
  • have a pet passport or a veterinary certificate

There has been a concerning increase in dogs entering Northern Ireland without proper vaccination. Local private veterinary practitioners have recently identified several instances where dogs have either not been vaccinated or been vaccinated at too young an age (which greatly reduces any effective protection offered by the vaccine).

There is ongoing illegal trade in pups being imported from eastern Europe, and whilst Northern Ireland is afforded some protection against this (given there are no direct trade routes into Northern Ireland from mainland Europe) the lure of easy profits for unscrupulous traders has resulted in an increase of instances where genuine purchasers have been duped into buying an illegally imported pup. Besides the disease risk, these pups are often bred in very poor conditions which give rise to major health and welfare concerns.

Where the legal requirements are not met pets will either go into quarantine for a period of up to four months at the owners’ expense, or be sent back to the country they have travelled from, or the dog may be destroyed. This is necessary to keep Northern Ireland free of diseases such as rabies and Alveolar Echinococcus (a very severe human disease caused by tapeworms which do not occur here, and which is very difficult to treat and may cause death if a person should become infected).

In addition to the potential disease risk from pups not properly vaccinated, the current cost of placing a dog into quarantine is approximately £1000, and this could rise significantly depending on the individual circumstances or the length of stay required until a dog is authorised to leave.

Useful advice about purchasing puppies (and specifically imported dogs) as well as detailed guidance on the requirements for pet animals being brought into Northern Ireland from countries outside the UK is provided on NI Direct.

Alternatively anyone considering bringing a pet into the country can contact Trade Section, DAERA for advice by telephone 028 9052 4622 or tradeadminpost@daera-ni.gov.uk.

Notes to editors: 

  1. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office, pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk or tel: 028 9052 4619.

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