| Last updated
The charity issued the stark announcement after saving its 1,500th dog from smugglers, revealing it has has seen a 28 per cent increase in adverts for dogs most likely to be imported from eastern Europe illegally.
It found 152 adverts for French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs, Chows and Dachshunds just last month alone - that's 33 more than there were a year ago.
Dogs Trust has been working with government animal welfare agencies to try and prevent smugglers at the border, taking the dogs they've captured to shelters and nurturing them before they can find their old owners, or their new forever homes.
Even before the pandemic, dog smuggling was on the rise, with Dogs Trust stating that there was a 66 per cent increase in pooches entering its Puppy Pilot scheme.
The Pilot scheme had been running since 2015, and asks Government agency staff to stop, search and seize puppies at UK borders.
However, vet director Paula Boyden is worried that this is only a fraction of the problem, calling for "urgent action" to be taken.
"The 1500th puppy rehomed through the Puppy Pilot is a bittersweet milestone for us to reach. The scheme was originally set up on a trial basis in 2015, because there were not sufficient resources to care for the puppies being seized at the border," she said.
"Five years on the need for our services is greater than ever as the demand for dogs during lockdown has further exacerbated the problem and, unfortunately, we know that the dogs we care for are just a small proportion of those that make it into the country illegally."
Paula went on: "We held our first conference with relevant stakeholders and Government representatives to highlight our concerns about the illegal importation of puppies over eight years ago, and our asks remain the same.
"Now that the UK has left the EU, there has never been a better time for the Government to raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to six months to help make them less desirable.
"We also want to see tougher penalties for smugglers, as only a handful of cases have ever led to a prosecution, with paltry penalties that are no deterrent."
It comes after the charity issued worrying statistics, suggesting that worryingly, more than half of Londoners (54 per cent) would be okay with purchasing a puppy online, even if it was an illegal import, in the country as a result of smuggling.
The charity is now not only suggesting legislation change to prevent smuggling, but also urging those shopping for animals to be more vigilant.
"We want people to understand that buying an illegally imported puppy has huge implications for both the pups - who have to travel miles across borders in awful conditions - and the mums who are basically breeding machines," Paula explained.
"The sellers and importers care little for the dogs' welfare and just want to make a quick buck - as a nation of dog lovers we can help stem this problem and put a stop to the suffering of dogs like Tara, Befa and the pups they were imported in with.
"We are urging people to be patient when buying a puppy and follow our advice to see the puppy with their mum and siblings more than once - even if that is over video call due to current restrictions - check all paperwork carefully and if something doesn't feel right, walk away and report it to Trading Standards."
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read