'Shocking' example of puppy trade as 96 dogs seized at port
Animal welfare officers seized 96 puppies from a suspected Irish puppy mill at Holyhead Port in Wales.
Officers said this could represent just a fraction of the dogs that illicit breeders attempt to smuggle into the UK in the run-up to Christmas.
In what was described as "a shocking example of the scale of the puppy trade," Border Force officials intercepted two shipments of puppies aged just six or seven weeks on Tuesday morning when two ferries from Dublin arrived at Holyhead Port.
The 96 puppies were kept in filthy, unventilated conditions with no food or water.
The second shipment - found in a van that was being pulled by a flatbed truck - was hidden behind bales of wood shavings.
The puppies, including beagles, basset hounds, labradoodles and pomeranians, were handed over to the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA).
The charity has put them into temporary foster homes until permanent homes can be found.
However, because they are bred with minimal human contact, many of them are "terrified of people" and will have to be socialised before they can be adopted, said DSPCA spokeswoman Gillian Bird.
The intelligence-led seizure was part of a multi-agency, cross-border operation targeting criminals involved in illicit puppy-breeding and smuggling.
Ms Bird said she fears it will not be the last seizure in the coming weeks as smugglers target the highly lucrative Christmas market.
Conor Dowling, chief inspector with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), said despite the all-Ireland and cross-border clampdown on puppy smuggling, criminals are "making a lot of money" out of the trade.
"They're becoming more elaborate in their attempts to conceal the pups, so we're going to have to be more vigilant."