December 15, 2017

Hugo was one of 96 puppies intercepted by RSPCA Cymru and other agencies, after attempts had been made to smuggle the pups illegally via Holyhead Port.

A tiny beagle – saved from a failed smuggling attempt via Holyhead Port – is the star of a new report lifting the lid on the “horrifying” conditions the illegal puppy trade can subject animals to.

Hugo was one of 96 puppies rescued by RSPCA Cymru, and other bodies, as part of a multi-agency operation at the North Wales port in November 2016.

The new digital, interactive report – which contains new footage, photographs and testimonies – tells the story of Hugo, and the 95 other puppies, after attempts to illegally smuggle the dogs via the Port in deeply inappropriate conditions were foiled by enforcement agencies.

RSPCA Cymru say Hugo’s story is a “timely reminder” as to the “shocking realities” of the illegal puppy trade; and highlights the “grim” trade which impulse puppy purchases could be fuelling.

November 2016’s swoop saw two consignments of puppies – including beagles, basset hounds, labradoodles and pomeranians – intercepted at the Port; with most aged between six and seven weeks old.

The RSPCA worked with a number of agencies in undertaking the operation, including Border Force, Isle of Anglesey County Council, the DSPCA, ISPCA, veterinary surgeons, the Police, HMRC, the Welsh Government, APHA; and other agencies, to target illegal puppy traders.

Conditions on the two vehicles were horrendous, and placed the puppies at risk of severe welfare problems. Transport was not ventilated, adequate food and water not provided, and filthy conditions evident in both vehicles. Shockingly, in one van, attempts had been made to conceal the transported puppies behind bales of wood shavings.

After an initial veterinary inspection, the puppies were returned to the Republic of Ireland, and into the care of the DSPCA. Thankfully, all bar one survived, and have been happily re-homed – including beagle pup Hugo, who now lives with Irish international boxer Moira McElligott.

The seizure led to prosecution proceedings being undertaken by Isle of Anglesey Council, who are empowered to enforce the relevant area of legislation. A man – who sought to smuggle 35 of the pups into the UK on just that one night – was handed a suspended prison sentence. This amounted to three 18-week prison sentences, running concurrently, and suspended for one-year.

However, the RSPCA say that consumers possess the true power to stop these criminals and protect the dogs involved.

Claire Lawson, RSPCA Cymru Assistant Director of External Relations, who chaired the multi-agency task force, said: “This important new interactive report acts as a timely reminder to the shocking realities of the grim, horrifying illegal puppy market.

“As we approach the Christmas season, temptation can sometimes lead people to add a cute, young puppy to their household that – in the longer-term – they simply don’t want anymore. These impulse buys are often not well-researched, and can unwittingly fuel the illegal puppy trade. Pups aren’t presents – they’re a long-term commitment.

“If the RSPCA and other agencies hadn’t stepped in, Hugo would have been sold to unsuspecting new owners who, inadvertently, would be funding this cruel, murky underground trade; and paving the way for more pups to face miserable long journeys and conditions.

“To find 96 puppies being carted into the country like this on just one night demonstrates the potential vast scale of this illegal puppy trade. While agencies do what they can to catch traffickers in their tracks, the best way to end this vile trade is for the public to better understand where puppies may have stemmed from, and to not fuel the profits of such unscrupulous traders who have no regard for animal welfare.

“It’s vital anyone looking to buy a puppy does their research – or, better still, considers one of the thousands of rescue dogs who each year is searching for a second chance of forever home happiness.”

Moira McElligott was boxing for Ireland at the European Championships in Bulgaria when Hugo was rescued. He has now made his forever home with her family.

She added: “Hugo has had quite some year – and his powerful story is now at the forefront of such an important campaign.

“While boxing for the Irish team at the European Championships in Bulgaria, I learned about the rescued puppies, and always kept up to date with what was happening with them.

“Hugo was initially adopted by another family, but it didn’t work out for him – so we initially decided to foster him, and he settled in brilliantly. His life in Carlow is a far cry from the city of Dublin – and he shares the farm with a yard of horses, fields of sheep, and many cats!

“We’re so pleased Hugo instantly became part of the household, holding his own chair in the kitchen, and with much of the family wrapped around his paw!  

“Every day my fiancé Will keeps me posted on Hugo’s adventures via Snapchat. He means the world to us both, we’re so delighted to have adopted him, and that he, along with 95 others, was rescued from such an appalling start to life.”

If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru help puppies like Hugo, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and rely on public donations.