Labour MSP David Stewart has supported a members’ motion in the Scottish Parliament condemning the illegal puppy trade as a blight on animal welfare.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, Labour’s spokesperson for animal welfare, highlighted that thousands of dogs are brought to Scotland each year to be sold and are often bred in substandard conditions, regularly suffering from severe illnesses when sold.

“These puppies are raised and transported in conditions that foster worms and parasites or even distemper. Some have genetic defects or personality disorders,” he said.

“By the time that a customer has purchased a puppy and realised that medical help is needed, all too often, and tragically, it is too late.”

Mr Stewart said the puppy trade had reached industrial proportions. The Kennel Club evidenced that 1 in 4 puppies bought in the UK may have come from puppy farms.

Also it found that almost 1 in 5 puppies bought on social media or the internet die before the age of six months. Twice as many puppies purchased on the internet, compared to direct breeders, suffer serious health problems

“Puppies are held in mass breeding operations in dark and filthy conditions. They often do not receive sufficient food or water, let alone proper immunization,” he said.

“Mothers are kept in cramped cages and forced to have continuous litters. When puppies are born, mothers are too weak to care for them and not given the opportunity to bond. When they get older and unable to breed as many pups, they are often killed or sold to laboratories for experiments.”

He stressed that while puppies face cruel and inhumane conditions, puppy breeders roll in profits with one gang reportedly making £8,000 a week from the sale of sick dogs.

“Sadly, puppy trading is on the rise. Following changes to the Pet Travel Scheme in 2012, puppy traders can more easily transport dogs into the UK. Defra reported that in the first year following the changes, there was a 61% increase in the number of dogs entering the UK,” he added.

He explained that puppies sold through illegal traders are often extremely young and unvaccinated for rabies. Between mainland Europe and the UK, the recent rise in rabies among dogs in Eastern Europe has the potential to reintroduce the disease here in Scotland.

“When an eager future owner searches for a puppy online, there is no way for them to know where it comes from, what conditions it was held in, or whether it is healthy,” added Mr Stewart.

“We are now in the midst of the Christmas season. All over Scotland, children are asking Santa for a canine companion. Puppy purchases – and profits from the illegal puppy trade – are at an all-time high.
“Dogs are near and dear to many of our hearts. As Elizabeth Parker said: ‘A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.’”

Mr Stewart congratulated MSP Emma Harper for securing the debate.