Dog rescue organizations are calling on Eurotunnel to clarify new rules to curb the increasing numbers of animals being brought into the UK.
Rescue organizations said dogs in need of rehabilitation could suffer from the decision to reduce the number of animals allowed to drive in each vehicle from 20 to five, dramatically increasing the cost of rescue operations.
However, Eurotunnel said the “sheer volume” of dogs has become unsustainable and the decision follows growing concerns about the welfare of dogs arriving at the Calais terminal.
An estimated 250,000 dogs travel to the UK via the Channel Tunnel each year.
The company made no specific mention of illegal puppy smuggling, but animal rights groups have said skyrocketing puppy prices are fueling cross-border smuggling.
With the UK locked nationwide for the second time and Christmas approaching, demand is expected to continue to grow.
“We have real concerns about puppies and dogs being brought into the country in large numbers to be resold to buyers and we have found that many are facing serious health and welfare issues,” the RSPCA said following the Eurotunnel decision .
Eurotunnel has now made it clear that registered charities and businesses are exempt from the border after a petition to reverse the decision received more than 40,000 signatures over the weekend.
However, many rescue groups remain concerned that they may not qualify for the exemption. Emma Billingdon of Dogs 4 Rescue, a two-person team based in Manchester, said her organization, like many similar ones, is registered as a company of community interest, which means it does not meet the “Registered Charity” qualification.
Registering as a charity would take time, Billingdon said. Dogs 4 Rescue has desperately tried to follow the new rules but has not been able to book transportation for rescue operations since the policy change, meaning dogs cannot be rehabilitated as planned. The team’s partners in Europe can no longer get dogs off the streets because their shelters are full, she said.
“What about all the dogs in the meantime? It will be -15C [5F] There [in Bulgaria] next week the weaker ones will perish, ”said Billingdon.
She argued that an age limit for dogs traveling to the UK would be a more effective way to fight smuggling while allowing rescue dogs into the UK.
“Everyone wants a 12 week old puppy, that’s why they smuggle him in so young.”
The RSPCA supports an approach to age restrictions and would like the minimum age to be increased to 24 weeks.
Dogs Trust said puppy farms could adapt to circumvent the new rule. “While Eurotunnel’s policies could in principle have a positive impact on trade, we know how adaptable puppy smugglers can be in view of the profits that can be made,” said Deputy Veterinary Director Runa Hanaghan.
Katrina Wright, a trustee for Freedom Angels Animal Rescue (Faar), said it wasn’t just pedigree dogs brought to the UK and endangered by people who wanted to benefit from the craze. “We have seen rescue dogs brought to the UK for adoption donations of £ 300 to £ 400 that were resold on Gumtree for over £ 1,000,” she said.
Wright questioned whether animal welfare concerns were the basis for changing the Eurotunel policy, saying it was a “commercial decision” to cut labor costs by a Eurotunnel employee she spoke to until it was introduced.
However, Eurotunnel denied that the decision was financially motivated, saying it understood the concerns of the rescue groups. “There was a valid argument from charities that they couldn’t cover the cost of splitting them into smaller five-car vehicles, but we never intended to exclude these people,” said John Keefe, Eurotunnels public affairs director.
“We fully support the recognized, registered charities that do a great job of saving and rehabilitating animals under good welfare conditions.
“The staff at our pet reception center are animal lovers. And they are all concerned about animal welfare. The authorities do not have sufficient resources to monitor this and it is not our job to do so. So we had to take the necessary steps ourselves. “
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Regional Affairs (Defra), which would be responsible for such monitoring, said: “All decisions made by carriers [such as Eurotunnel] Additional restrictions on the number or types of pets they may wish to carry are commercial choices made by the carrier. [The Animal and Plant Health Agency] and Defra are not involved in these business decisions. We are pleased with the way the current pet movement requirements are applied. “