(FOUR PAWS Press Release) Monday 28th September is World Rabies Day and animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS UK is using it as an opportunity to warn of the potential risks posed by the illegal puppy trade.
The UK has been free of rabies since 1922, so risk levels are currently low. However, in Eastern Europe, the dreadful disease remains widespread.
FOUR PAWS is warning against buying dogs from dubious sources, as puppies illegally imported from Eastern Europe – who have not been vaccinated – could reintroduce rabies into the UK.
Every year since 2007, The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) has declared a World Rabies Day on the 28th of September. The aim is to fight this disease globally and to raise awareness of the virus.
Around 55,000 people world-wide suffer a painful death from rabies every year. In the majority of cases this is the result of bites or scratches from infected dogs. If the virus is not caught in time, usually when the symptoms begin to show, it is fatal for both animals and humans.
There are thousands of puppies smuggled in from Eastern Europe to Western Europe every year, with most being offered for sale via the Internet.
Last month, FOUR PAWS UK exposed evidence of this organised and unscrupulous industry in a joint investigation with the Daily Mirror. These puppies are usually imported with falsified documentation, they are unvaccinated and often ill due to the poor conditions in which they are bred.
If the puppies arrive unvaccinated there is risk that they could be infected with rabies. This could result in the new owner or their family becoming infected, as well as the possibility of catching other zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans).
Julie Sanders of FOUR PAWS UK, commented: “The trade in pedigree puppies has grown into a business worth millions, with a Mafia-like structures benefiting from it.
“We wish to warn potential dog owners of the risks of buying a puppy without knowing its origin and recommend that if people wish to buy a puppy that they always find a reputable breeder or adopt a dog from a shelter in order to protect their families and to avoid supporting this unscrupulous business.
“Don’t be tempted by bargain prices online and don’t buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it”
The only protection against rabies is vaccination. Puppies can only be vaccinated against rabies when they are 12 weeks old, after which the vaccination takes another 3 weeks to become fully effective.
Illegally imported puppies often come from countries considered to be of high-risk from rabies. Buying such dogs carries a risk of reintroducing this dangerous disease to the UK.
FOUR PAWS is running an international campaign against the illegal puppy trade and has already uncovered many cases across Europe and brought them to trial.
The campaign aims to end the illegal puppy trade by exposing the problem, raising public awareness and lobbing the Government for improved legislation and enforcement.
You can report cases of illegal puppy trading at www.stoppuppytraders.org.
For more information on what to check before buying a puppy, please visit FOUR PAWS UK’s website.