BREXIT offers an opportunity to clampdown on the “harrowing” trade of puppy smuggling, says North Swindon MP.

Justin Tomlinson has backed a campaign by the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, Dog’s Trust, to highlight the plight of smuggled puppies imported to fuel the Christmas puppy trade.

Last week the charity, which coined the famous slogan ‘A dog is for Life, not just for Christmas’, invited a host of MPs and Peers to its annual House of Commons reception.

Dogs Trust has been investigating the problem since 2014, and through three undercover investigations has found that unscrupulous breeders take advantage of, and profit from, issues with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

As a result, underage puppies are being illegally imported into Great Britain from Central and Eastern Europe, and sold to unsuspecting members of the public.

Justin Tomlinson has worked closely with the Dogs Trust on a number of occasions, including campaigns on the importance of micro-chipping and banning puppy farming.

He said: “I’m very pleased to support Dogs Trust in raising awareness of the plight of illegally imported puppies, who suffer the most harrowing of journeys at the hands of these dealers.

“As we leave the EU, we have an opportunity to strengthen our animal welfare laws. Puppy smuggling is something that current EU protocols restrict us from clamping down on. This is something that I hope can change with Brexit.”

Over the last few months, nearly 100 dogs were seized by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) at the borders, as dealers take advantage of the increased demand for puppies in the run up to Christmas.

Dogs Trust has found that of the puppies who do survive the appalling conditions in which they are forced to travel, many require emergency treatment.

Adrian Burder, Dogs Trust CEO, said: “It’s a shame that we still have to remind people of our slogan, ‘A dog is for Life, not just for Christmas’ nearly 40 years on from its creation.

“We always encourage responsible rehoming, but dealers will go to great lengths to dupe innocent people, making it increasingly difficult to spot an illegally smuggled puppy.

“Over the next 12 months, we will continue to push for proper enforcement at UK borders. We will also continue our Puppy Pilot scheme.

“We can’t thank Justin Tomlinson MP enough for his support, and we look forward to continuing to work together to tackle this issue, and make some much needed improvements in 2018 and when we leave the EU.”