Puppies inside a cardboard box

Horrific Case Shows That Illegal Puppy Trade In Europe Has to Be Stopped

EU-wide mandatory identification and registration of dogs and their owners are urgently needed to end this malpractice


Vienna, 17 May 2024 – Gravely ill, bred in unhygienic and cruel conditions, separated from their mothers too soon to be transported throughout Europe for hours in stuffy and hot car boots – this is the tragic fate of many puppies that fall victim to illegal puppy trade, often being acquired by their future owners in good faith. Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is alarmed about this gruesome practice and calls for the introduction of an EU-wide mandatory identification and registration of dogs and their breeders by microchipping to stop this organised crime. Only recently, the Austrian authorities saved 30 puppies from an illegal transport from Slovakia to Algeria. The authorities got suspicious during a control on the Austrian highway to Italy, noticing a nasty stench of urine and faeces. When they opened the boot, they found 30 pups in very poor health condition, crammed into twelve boxes, many of whom were too young for transport.

“Instead of getting their dream dog, many owners are faced with a rude awakening when falling victim to illegal puppy traders. Without veterinary care and vaccinations, the young pups are often fatally ill, leaving their owners with massive vet bills, much sorrow and grief, as some of them do not make it. To prevent the illegal puppy traders from causing more suffering, existing loopholes in the EU legislation must be closed. To track and regulate illegal puppy trade, there is an urgent need for introducing mandatory microchipping for dogs, including reliable data on the animals, their breeders and all of their owners,” 

Nick Weston, Head of International Companion Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS

Illegal puppy trade route from the East to the West

An estimated 438,000 dogs are offered via advertisements at any given moment according to a report by the European Commission, making fraud difficult to detect. Criminals mask their illegal activities by abusing regulations of free movement for private pet owners and using forged documents, which are difficult to be verified at border controls due to a lack of harmonised registration data. Puppies are often transported illegally by road from Romania, Hungary and Poland to Germany, from Serbia to Slovenia, and from Russia and Belarus to Poland and Latvia. There is also air transport from Türkiye to the Netherlands and Austria. With a rising demand for companion animals – approximately 66 million dogs were living in the European Union in 2022 – the European Commission has recognised the need to halt this organised crime of illicit trade and proposed a regulation on the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability. The regulation is currently discussed in the Council. FOUR PAWS welcomes this step forward and calls on member states to strengthen the regulation by making registration and identification mandatory for all dogs and cats, including reliable data on the animals, and all relevant stakeholders from each breeder and owner for better traceability.

Calling on voters to strengthen the welfare of companion animals

FOUR PAWS calls on EU citizens to cast their ballot in the upcoming European Parliamentary Elections for candidates that prioritise animal welfare. In the run-up to elections in June 2024, FOUR PAWS is urging candidates to pledge for increased animal welfare in the European Union, including full traceability of animals and their successive owners as well as banning poor breeding, transporting and trading practices concerning cats and dogs. Read more about how you can improve animal welfare with your vote in the EU Elections.

FOUR PAWS calls on future dog owners to be vigilant

When considering getting a dog, FOUR PAWS promotes adoption from local shelters, which house many dogs searching for a loving home. When buying a puppy, FOUR PAWS recommends looking for a responsible breeder, being extremely vigilant when buying online and using the FOUR PAWS reporting tool to report illegal puppy trade. Here you can find further information on how to identify a responsible puppy seller.

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European Elections 2024

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Vera Mair PR International Officer

Vera Mair 

PR International Officer 


+43 (0) 664 409 05 16

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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