Step by Step Guide to the Puppy Import Trade

I’ve written at length before about what a “Puppy Broker” is –  think of them as ‘electronic pet stores’, who obtain puppies from a breeder, and then re sell them for a profit. Unlike pet stores, who at least admit to not having bred the puppies they sell, many brokers will bend over backwards to obscure the fact that they aren’t the actual breeders of the puppies.

Brokers who do admit that their dogs are European imports like to use a lot of buzz terms about just why they’re importing puppies for re sale. They’ll talk about “superior health”, and “champion lines”, and they like to toss around references to a better policed European breeding system. What they never actually spell out for you is the actual chain of events – how a puppy gets from a breeder in Europe to a puppy broker in Toronto, or some other North American city.

This article caught my eye, because it fills in some of the blanks for us:

From the Austrian Independent

Styrian police discovered 47 puppies stashed in a Slovakian van during a routine motorway traffic check on the A2 yesterday (Weds).

Cops said the animals were transported in carton boxes and on the car’s floor.

The 31-year-old driver is facing animal cruelty charges. He admitted he had been driving nonstop for hours and was on his way to Spain.

A vet said the man had five King Charles Spaniels, one Jack Russell Terrier, eight miniature pinscher, four Pomeranians, one French Bulldog, four Chihuahuas, three wire-haired dachshunds, 20 Maltese and one Labrador. He said the youngest dogs were just five weeks old.

The emphasis in bold is mine, because it plays such an important part in explaining just why so many of the Eastern European import dogs have temperament problems.

In the immortal words of a puppy broker, which I’ve never forgotten, “Puppies are like baked goods – the older they get, the staler they are, and the less money you can charge for them”.

The North American pet market wants their puppies young, and in the prime of their ‘cute puppy’ phase – generally, between 8 to 9 weeks of age.  Here’s a breakdown of what it takes to get those puppies to North America, before their ‘best before’ window expires.

Bunchers are the guys who visit the Eastern European breeders, and round up the puppies. They’ll pick up entire litter lots, of the various breeds that are in demand, load them up, and do the paperwork that’s required to get them ready for shipping to North America. Since there’s at least a week or two of ‘advance’ work to be done before the puppies are ready to be shipped, the Bunchers are usually picking these puppies up almost as soon as they are weaned – that’s as early as four weeks.

Leah at Four Weeks

Leah at Four Weeks

This is Leah, at four weeks old. Her legs are wobbly, her teeth are still erupting, and she startles rapidly. She’s barely out of her neonate phase, and into her transitional one.

A four week old puppy is a fragile thing – it’s immune system is still reliant on the antibodies it received from its mother, and it is physically unable to regulate body temperature effectively and so gets cold or hot very rapidly.

This is the most important phase in a puppy’s emotional development, and it is when they most need the company of their littermates and their mother.

Bunchers, of course, are not concerned with these niceties. Their  only goal is to get their goods to market, as quickly as possible. Once rounded up, the puppies are transported (apparently sometimes on the floors of vans) to a holding facility, where they stay until all the necessary paperwork has been done that they need to be able to be shipped.

Once this is ready, they’re packed into crates, and loaded onto airplanes. Technically, it’s unacceptable to ship multiple puppies together in one crate, but in reality it still happens all the time, especially if the shipper on the European end either doesn’t know about this regulation, or has been paid not to care. Sometimes, the shippers aren’t too up to date on proper animal welfare, which explains the crate which arrived in the USA shrink wrapped, and full of suffocated puppies. A few dead puppies, however, are considered ‘acceptable loss’ – after all, the pups are bought for sometimes as little as $50, but they can be re sold by the bunchers for a few hundred – and there’s almost no limit what the brokers on the other end can charge.

The pups who make it onto the plane face a grueling journey – with layovers, a flight from Poland to Toronto is going to depart at 7:30 in the evening, and arrive at 1:00 the following day (that’s a 23hr 5mn trip). Since the puppies, however, are traveling as cargo, they usually are required to have a four or five hour layover, to ensure they’re loaded onto the connecting flight.

Think about it – that’s at least two to three hours in advance arrival, a day and change in transit, and then another three or so hours being processed on arrival. Alone, in a crate, with no food, no water, no potty breaks, no companionship. For puppies that are, by now, probably no more than five to six weeks old.


Sick puppy gets injection by the puppy broker who imported it

Sick puppy gets injection by the puppy broker who imported it

The pups arrive, are processed, and are picked up by the puppy brokers. At this point, they have to be vetted, and treated for any conditions they’ve acquired over the interval since they left the Bunchers (parasites like coccidia and giardia, and viruses like parvo, thrive in conditions of stress).

Veterinary treatment costs money, so a lot of the brokers choose a sort of ‘do it yourself’ method, as we can see in this photo of a puppy receiving ‘care’ at the hands of the Broker who imported it.

You can imagine how well that usually works out.

Once the surviving puppies have been dosed with antibiotics, fluids and worming medicine, the Brokers prop them up against some stuffed animals, take their photos, and add them to their websites, or the numerous “puppy for sale” websites which have proliferated in the last ten or so years. Some will be sold via on line sites like Kijiji, and many will be portrayed as having been bred by the person selling them. In many cases, buyers only find out where their puppies really came from when (and if) they finally get a copy of their registration papers.

That’s an awfully long trip, at an awfully young age, for puppies who should be still at home playing with their litter mates. By comparison, it makes the cross country trip from Missouri to a New York City pet shop look like a comparative walk in the park, and yet people who would never dream of buying a pet store puppy will purchase one from a broker, without seeing the irony.

We need people to understand that there is just as much, if not more, cruelty involved in the import puppy trade, as there is in the domestic puppy mill business. All of the shiny on line photographs in the world can’t justify the abuse these tiny little victims endure.

For more info, visit the Wrong Puppy –

Stolen Dogs Returned in California and Quebec

Vivienne Scott gets a kiss from her border collie, after the dog was recovered

Vivienne Scott gets a kiss from her border collie, after the dog was recovered

Jennifer of Adamant Bulldogs left this piece of good news in the comments section:

The english bulldogs stolen in California were returned.

The owner was able to get several papers and local TV news outlets to report on the theft, she also blanketed Craigslist, Kijiji and other sites with the story. The goal was to make it to hard for anyone to sell or even give away the dogs

Her doorbell rang and when she opened it the dogs were running around in front of her house, the returner was nowhere to be found.

Don’t know if this tactic will help with the Chicago situation, but it is the second time this seems to have worked for bulldog owners on the wet coast, last year it was a puppy in AZ, and the media coverage saw her left in a hotel drop box in good condition

This reminded me of a similar situation which just occurred in Montreal, Quebec. A truck carrying the canine members of an Ottawa Flyball team was stolen from a parking lot outside of a Jack Astor’s Eatery.

From Yahoo News

Claire Gordon of Manotick was with three other Ottawa residents eating at Jack Astor’s just west of Montreal off the Hwy. 40 when her black 2004 Chevrolet Silverado was stolen at about 3:30 p.m.

Gordon and her friends had spent the day at Ile-des-Soeurs competing in a flyball tournament, said her friend Pat Nadarajah, 49, of Ottawa.

“They went in for dinner and came back out an hour later and the truck had been stolen,” said Nadarajah.

“Whoever took it obviously didn’t know the dogs were in there because they were in the back of the truck,” said Nadarajah, adding the truck had a cap on the back.

There were two Border Collies, Jack Russell Terrier and a Cattle dog in crates.

“I would imagine horror,” Nadarajah said of Gordon’s reaction. “She had parked pretty close to the entrance so she could try and keep an eye on it. When she came out she couldn’t find the truck.”

As in the case Jennifer mentioned, friends and acquaintances of Gordon instantly sprang into action, getting the news out to mailing lists, on line forums, ad sites and the media. All of this unwanted attention paid off – the dogs were found.

From FWix

The SPCA received a call just after midnight from someone reporting dogs tied to a fence in the Montreal area. They went to investigate and the happy pooches responded to their names when they were called.

“It’s absolutely amazing what overwhelming support we got from the community. We had calls from Missouri, New Brunswick and even Newfoundland,” Scott said. “We put the word out on Facebook and Twitter with their mugshots and people really tried to help. We owe them for all they did.”

Two things leap out from this incidence – the first is to ALWAYS use the power of social media to get the word out about situations like this.

Dog people, for all their faults, will almost always rally around dogs in need, and they have a pretty powerful grapevine. It might not always work, but the added attention this kind of media coverage can bring will certainly help to make theives decide that maybe it just isn’t worth it to keep the dogs after all.

The second lesson comes from Vivienne Scott, owner of one of the missing dogs –

“We shall never leave our dogs in the car ever again. We thought it would be safe, but we’re never going to do that again.”

A good lesson for all of us to remember – things can happen in an instance, and it’s up to us to try to minimize risk. From now on, I’ll be sucking it up and eating drive through take out, inside the car.

Celebrity Look a Likes

From Wonderwall

Jack Black and a French Bulldog

Celebrities who look like pets - Jack Black and a French Bulldog

I’m not so sure about this – that Frenchie is waaay cuter than Jack Black, although I think Black can probably dance a better Jig.

Best New York Times Ad EVER

Humane Watch ran this ad in the New York Times, illustrating where the HSUS really spends their money

Humane Watch ran this ad in the New York Times, illustrating where the HSUS really spends their money

Thanks to the group Humane Watch, readers of the New York Times will get a graphic look at where the money they donate to the Humane Society of the United States really goes.

From their press release –


Only One out of Every 200 Dollars Donated to the Humane Society of the United States Goes to a Pet Shelter

Washington – A full-page ad from the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) appears in today’s New York Times, highlighting the failure of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to devote a significant amount of money to supporting America’s underfunded pet shelters. The ad explains that HSUS shares only 1 dollar out of every 200 dollars it collects with local, hands-on pet shelters. The ad encourages readers to find out more by visiting, CCF’snew watchdog website.

Americans have become familiar with HSUS fundraising ads asking for a $19-per-month commitment that amounts to an annual donation of more than $200. But according to HSUS’s own tax records, donors making that pledge are sending barely $1 to an organization that shelters unwanted pets—the work most Americans think of when they hear the words “Humane Society.”

“HSUS’s cable TV fundraising ads are full of images of dogs and cats in dire need of help,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “HSUS donors should hold the organization to a much higher standard. Instead of spending millions on executive pensions, a bloated legal staff, and PETA-style propaganda campaigns, HSUS’s leaders should put their money where their mouth is.”

More on the Stolen Chicago French Bulldog

More details from Beth, owner of the Delilah Blue, the French Bulldog who was stolen from inside a Chicagoland residence. Please, please – tweet this, email this and send it on to as many groups as you know of. We need help in getting Delilah Blue back, and we need to make sure that no more dogs go missing.

If you live in or near Chicago and want to help, you can download the flyer with her information here. Please paste it up in as many places as possible – vet clinics, groomers and pet supply stores are especially helpful.

Yesterday, my little French Bulldog puppy, 4 months old, was stolen from my home. I know who took her by what he looks like, but can’t confirm a name, I’m sure he gave me a fake name. I was walking my puppy, Delilah Blue, home from the park – we went to enjoy the good weather before this storm hit last night.

On the way home from the park, we encountered “Alexa”, a friendly-type “neighbor” who commented how cute Delilah was, and that he had 4 puppies of his own, about 3 months old, available for sale. He named the breed properly and mentioned the colors of the dogs as cream and black. If he said “white” I would have thought about that, since in the Frenchie community, the proper name is “cream”. Anyway, we walked and chatted, and he told me that he only lived a few blocks from the park. I said I wanted to see the puppies and wanted to take mine home first. While we walked, he “received” (although I didn’t hear the phone ring, thought it might be on vibrate or something) a few phone calls for his “puppies for sale”. He went through one or two conversations with people who were calling to come see one of the puppies.

When we got to my house, I went inside, leaving him outside, and put the dog away (took off her leash and sweater), and grabbed my driver’s license and wallet, and got ready to drive him to his house nearby to see the puppies. As I was leaving, he asked me if he could use the restroom. I figured it was OK (What An Idiot) and let him in, watching him walk down the hall and saw him coming back out. Before he left, he leaned over to pet my puppy goodbye, who was sitting by the sliding glass door, and must have unlocked the door. Then we left and I locked the house doors, leaving my purse and everything else inside, “safely locked up”.

We then drove 1 and a half blocks from my house, and he went down some stairs, I didn’t actually see him go inside a residence. A few minutes later, I got a call on my cellphone, from “Alexa”, asking me if I had some towels in the car, and that he was just going to be a few more minutes getting the puppies together. At that point, I called my upstairs neighbor to go check on the dog, something just felt really wrong… my neighbor ran down to my apartment (we all have eachother’s keys in case of emergencies and he dog-sits for me too)… Emanual told me that the dog was NOT in my house. It had only been a few minutes since I got that cell phone call from “Alexa”. I sped back to my house to find my dog stolen, the sliding glass doors had been opened.

“Alexa” told me he was gay, that he performed at “The Baton” and also that he worked in the stock room at Best Buy Ford City. He has shaved eyebrows, his ears are pierced above the lobes, he has men’s names tattoo’d on both sides of his neck, a tattoo of the name “Alexii” or “Alexa” on his arm, his pinkee finger has a bad gash in it, and some small dreads tied with blue and white beads that hung out the back of his black knit cap, which he wears to cover his “non-eyebrows”. Hispanic/Puerto Rican, about 5’6″ or 5’7″, chatty, effeminate (maybe to make “girls at ease”), white cell phone, jeans with a “Tiger” embroidered on the back pockets, black jacket.

Now here’s what I have done so far:

1. Filed a police report. 2 officers came and got my information. They told me to calm down and that I had to act smart. They sent out a fingerprint expert but he found nothing on the sliding glass doors.

2. Traced the cell phone number on the internet under “People Lookup By Phone Number”, since he JUST called me.
3. Went to the 1st address on the list last night just hours after the dog was stolen, and called the police station in the area, who sent out a squad car. Two officers went to the house listed (on 105th S. Ewing) and a couple said that Favian had moved out a long time ago, but they knew his father. The police talked to “his father” on the cellphone and the description of this “Favian” did not match the description of the man I described above.

4. I called my police station this morning to let them know that I had the cellphone number, they said they didn’t trace numbers… then I asked if a detective had been assigned to my case and was told that a detective would be assigned tomorrow or Wednesday and that they’d call me.

5. I remembered that this guy mentioned “the Baton” and called there to see if they could recognize the description of maybe a “regular” customer, or maybe an amateur impersonator or something, and when I finally got to talk to someone who might recognize patrons, etc. “Jim” asked me “Is this the lady I talked to last week?” and I said NO but tell me what happened and why another lady was calling about a dog napper? He gave me the person’s number and I called over there immediately.

6. There was another dog stolen from a pet store on Feb. 13th – the person who stole her matches the description of “my” guy EXACTLY – tattoos on his neck, shaved eyebrows, little braids in back, hispanic about 5’6/5’7 etc… talked about his mama, about getting puppies, etc. Also mentioned The Baton, that he worked there to both of us. He apparently went into the pet store and looked at the puppies, asked for a drink of water, and when their back was turned to get him some water, snatched the puppy and ran out of the store to a waiting car.

7. I am trying to hire a private investigator to trace the phone number and get a current billing address or name attached to the phone. it might be a clone or drop phone, but I don’t know yet.

I believe that there is a dog-snatching ring in play in Chicago, and that they stole from a store and a private residence. They are taking “high end” dogs and probably selling them privately or through the internet… The police wont’ tell me if there’s any other cases of dog-snatching, I want to find out where those crimes were committed, if this is the same guy, or find out where to FIND my PUPPY!!!

Beth’s Stolen Puppy:
Delilah Blue Petoulah LeDeux Gottlieb (Can just call her Delilah)
4 mo. old Black Brindle French Bulldog, with White Snipe on Chest
From: 21st & Oakley
Sunday, Feb. 21st @ 3pm
Police Report RD#HS 175012
No detective assigned yet
Area 4: 312.746-8253

Stolen From “Let’s Pet” Store
Boxer Puppy: 8 weeks old, solid white with spot on one eye
Saturday, Feb. 13th @ Time?
From: 3404 N. Ashland
Police Report RD#HS162073
Detective Moscalino assigned, not in today
Area 3 (312.744-8263)
CONTACT (DOG OWNER): Pete (312.533-5668) or Susan: 773.327-2050

Please feel free to call me if I can provide you with any more information or to let me know you can HELP ME!!!

Thank you,