An investigation by Dorset Council Trading Standards has resulted in the imprisonment of a man who illegally imported puppies into the UK.
Peter Graham Harman was sentenced to two years and four months in prison at Bournemouth Crown Court on 17 May. He had previously pleaded guilty to six offences relating to the importation and sale of litters of Doberman puppies.
Harman was prosecuted under the Fraud Act for participating in a fraudulent business for a three year period; four offences of breaching rabies import controls on numerous occasions; and an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 of misleading claims in his advertising about the history and transportation of the animals.
Harman operated an online business called UK Dobermans that specialised in importing cropped and docked puppies. The cropping of dogs’ ears and the docking of their tails for aesthetic purposes is banned in the UK and most of Europe but there is still demand for these dogs. Since the business was set up in 2016 Harman had regular shipments of dogs imported with some selling for up to £3,000 each.
In September 2019 officers from Dorset’s Trading Standards team were contacted by the Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA) Imports Team, who had detained eight cropped and docked Doberman puppies at Eurotunnel. APHA established that this had been the third failed attempt to transport the same dogs into the UK.
Trading Standards subsequently executed a warrant at Harman’s home address where he operated his business. Amongst the items seized were several mobile telephones and a laptop computer. These were sent to the National Crime Agency where they were forensically examined, which revealed conversations between Harman and a Serbia-based breeder of Doberman puppies. It was clear from these conversations that the puppies imported originated from outside the EU but were made to look as if they had originated from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria and so could be legally imported into the UK.
Restrictions are placed on dogs coming from outside the EU to ensure that rabies is not introduced to the country. Also, some dogs were too young to be imported into the UK. The minimum age from within the EU that puppies can be imported is 15 weeks, but some were found to be 12½ weeks old. The minimum age for importing from outside the EU, such as Serbia, is 7 months. He was also found to be using unlicenced carriers to transport the puppies.
In sentencing Harman Judge Climie said “you have put the UK’s rabies free status at risk.”
Councillor Jill Haynes, Portfolio Holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory Services at Dorset Council said: “A very important part of the work that our Trading Standards team does is to ensure that animals of all kinds are well looked after. “This case illustrates the work our Trading Standards team does, working with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to ensure that pet animals brought into the country adhere to the strict rules in place to make sure they are fit and healthy and do not pose a risk of introducing diseases to the UK.
“This investigation not only tackled breaches of animal disease controls but also misleading advertising and fraudulent trading by the trader concerned, all of which are priorities for our Trading Standards team.”