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BVA rolls out suite of resources to help vets across the UK report suspected illegal pet import cases

British Veterinary Association | British Veterinary Association

4 min read Member content

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has rolled out a suite of resources to support vets across the UK in reporting suspected cases of illegal pet importation.

Following the successful launch last year of a compliance flowchart and guidance document for vets in England, BVA has teamed up with the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel (NAHWP) in England and Wales, Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) and Trading Standards Scotland (TSS), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland to clearly set out what vets need to know about reporting illegal importation, wherever they work in the UK.

In BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession surveys in recent years, vets have mentioned finding it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to report concerns to the relevant authorities. Other concerns have included breaching client confidentiality, a lack of proof or sufficient evidence to investigate, a perceived lack of interest from local authorities if a case was reported, and uncertainty about whom to contact and how to report suspicions.

The new suite of downloadable, UK-wide compliance flowcharts and guidance documents, supported by Dogs Trust, outline what vets in each country should consider if they wish to report an illegally imported pet, including whom to contact, how to find the appropriate contact details, what action to expect, as well as how to navigate client confidentiality and data protection. In Scotland, vets will have access to an online reporting form at, which has been developed by ADS along with TSS.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“Veterinary teams can often be the first to suspect that an animal may have been illegally imported when an owner takes their pet for its first check-up. But our surveys have identified a compelling need for clearly defined routes and mechanisms for vets to more easily report suspected cases of illegal importation.

“Our flowchart and supporting guidance for vets in England last year were very well received by the profession and we are happy to be expanding them to empower vets across the UK to report any such cases.

“I’d encourage colleagues to use the resources if they wish to report any suspicions to relevant authorities and thereby help tackle the scourge of illegal importation.”

NAHWP Vice Chairperson Zoe Phillips said: 

“Ensuring the UK remains rabies free is a priority for Central and Local Government and therefore collaboration between local authorities, APHA and veterinary professionals is key in ensuring that suspect illegal imports are identified and dealt with appropriately, consistently and expediently.

“BVA, NAHWP and the Welsh Animal Health Panel have formulated the compliance guidance and flow chart in order to assist the veterinary profession when faced with potential breaches. This practical document will assist the profession by being a key ‘go to’ poster that can be placed on the walls of veterinary practices in both England and Wales.”

Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer of Trading Standards Scotland, said:

“Trading Standards Scotland are delighted to support a new resource which will aid the prevention of the illicit puppy trade across Scotland, which is one of our priority areas.”

Andrew Bartlett, Chief Executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:

“As Scotland’s new consumer advice service, we are keen to make it easier for vets across Scotland to report suspicions about illegally imported animals, as well as any other concerns about breeding, selling or animal welfare.

“By hosting this practical online form we hope that more cases will be reported to us, which we can then pass on to our colleagues in Trading Standards and local authorities for investigation.”

A spokesperson for DAERA welcomed the initiative and the engagement with BVA, saying:

“The flowchart provides an easy reference point for the process to report any suspicions of illegal imports. We would encourage all private vets to familiarise themselves with the flowchart and to report any concerns to DAERA at an earliest opportunity. Prompt action in respect of illegal imports will help protect animal health and welfare in Northern Ireland.”

The flowcharts and accompanying guidance notes for England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland can be downloaded respectively at:;; and

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