PUP HELL; Traffickers swipe young dogs from their mothers,cram them into a van cage, ship them to UK...and process is all LEGAL; EXCLUSIVE.
CRAMMED into cages in a dirty van that has travelled for days across Europe are 20 wimpering puppies.
Only eight weeks old, they should still be with their mothers to ensure they get the healthiest start in life.
But that is of little concern to the breeders and traffickers operating on the fringes of the law to cash in on Britain's love of dogs.
Our exclusive picture was taken at a car park in Dover after the van passed through border controls..
The 20 French bulldogs and pugs, all around two months old, were brought over on a ferry by a Polish driver and his three mates.
If travelling alone he would be smuggling - because the law allows each owner to arrive with no more than five of their dogs at a time.
But these men were not coming here with much-loved pets. They were heading to a dealer's lock-up garage in Llanelli, South Wales.
The plight of these animals horrifies port officials working for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
Too frequently they stop vans full of dogs that have come from puppy farms in Eastern Europe, torn from their mothers early and given the minimum standard of care.
After the long journey to Britain, they are sold at anything up to PS1,000, sometimes more.
Profits can be boosted if traders and drivers don't waste time and money following vets' guidelines. The results can be distressing.
The puppies in our picture were far from happy but officials let them go because they were not ill and no law was broken. Another driver travelling with friends who docked at Dover with 19 puppies had them all confiscated. It was the third time he had been stopped at the port.
He scraped through before but this time the pups were sick. All were suffering from neglect, seized and taken to kennels. One was put down and the others were returned to health and sent to good homes.
AHVLA officials did not give figures but they have no doubt puppy trafficking has boomed since strict laws under the Pet Travel Scheme were relaxed in January.
Dogs had to be three months old, microchipped, rabies vaccinated, delayed two to three weeks, then blood tested for rabies antibodies. Then, if clear, they were allowed into the UK six months AFTER the last blood test.
They would be nine months old before arriving.
Now anyone can import up to five puppies that have been chipped and vaccinated against rabies 21 days before travelling.
Vets and border agencies warned there would be a flood of dogs bred in unsanitary conditions then hastily chipped and documented.
The door was open for traffickers to make easy money and it seems fears of abuse were well founded.
City of London animal health inspector Sharon Edwards reported the number of imported dogs held in the capital this year TREBLED.
She said: "Pet passports have helped thousands of people but the new rules have opened up abuse by unscrupulous traders from Eastern Europe with falsified passports." Ms Edwards told of a lady who paid PS800 cash for a French bulldog pup that she valued at PS2,000.
There was an internet ad with a mobile number and the customer met the seller for the handover at a Tube station. The dog's passport, issued in Eastern Europe, said it was five months old but its real age was no more than 10 weeks.
Ms Edwards said: "A bargain? Not when the dog had to be put in quarantine and she was landed with a kennel bill for PS600."
Further vet bills can wipe out any savings from dodgy deals. "If it looks too good to be true, it is," added Ms Edwards. Judging by the state of the puppies seen at Dover, they are mass-bred in poor conditions.
When they arrive Arrival at Dover they have often been locked in a van for days, especially if born in Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - all officially "high rabies risk" areas. Separated from their mothers too early, at four weeks old or under, they have weaker immune systems and sometimes behaviour disorders.
In the worst cases they may not have been wormed or vaccinated and have hidden diseases including the canine equivalent of the hospital superbug MRSA.
Port authority vets said they have seen such infections along with fake certificates of health.
Animal charity Four Paws said: "The puppy trade has become a business worth millions. Pet lovers may think they are getting a good deal when they buy a puppy from these smugglers. But they realise just how expensive their bargain will be when they get their new pet home and it promptly vomits on the carpet."
Illnesses frequently found include kennel cough, diarrhoea, liver inflammation, canine distemper and canine parvovirus - a cause of vomiting and heart failure.
A typical dog run would be four men in a van with 20 puppies - the legal limit of five "pets" each.
Once past border checks they sell them on via the internet or to pet shops. Some are sold on to British dealers - in Kent lay-bys or remote garages or even blatantly in the car park at Dover docks.
If a Polish pup bought for less than PS100 is falsely advertised as Kennel Club registered then unwary buyers who see only a bargain may pay crooks up to PS1,000.
The club estimates one in five dog owners - 1.2million Britons - have bought pets bred in cruel puppy farms. They were sold on the internet or in unscrupulous pet shops or even motorway services.
Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko advised: "Buyers should steer well clear of any breeder or outlet that does not assess your suitability as a dog owner and doesn't give you every opps ortunity to vet their suitability as a breeder."
Another lurking peril is a rabies outbreak. A pup vaccinated under eight weeks will not have the immunities from its mother's milk. And, at that age, the rabies vaccine may not work.
The British Veterinary Association and trading standards officers recommend vaccination at 12 weeks. Other organisations accept seven weeks with a top-up at 12.
Have you got a horror story about being sold a trafficked puppy? Call our news desk on 0207 2933201.
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PET PORT: Arrival at Dover
PITIFUL PLIGHT Puppies in a Polish driver's van searched at Dover docks