More than five million pounds has been recovered by HMRC in lost tax revenue relating to puppy breeding since 2015. The task force was set up to tackle underground puppy dealing after animal welfare charities raised awareness of the illicit activity in unregulated conditions.
In total, breeders failed to declare sales amounting to £5,393,035 across 257 cases.
Several arrests have been made with one case relating to fraud spanning over eight years. Durham kennel owner, Kevin Knox, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of tax and VAT in March 2018 but the total amount of tax unpaid is unknown.
- Two breeders in the West of Scotland were handed £425,000 and £337,000 bills in separate cases.
- A puppy dealer in the East of Scotland was handed a tax bill in excess of £400,000.
- A former Crufts judge from the Midlands and a Northern Ireland dealer were each given a £185,000 bill in unrelated cases.
- £114,000 was demanded from a Somerset breeder.
- A Swansea puppy breeder was given a £110,000 tax bill.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said:
"It is utterly appalling that anyone would want to treat puppies in such an inhumane way and on such a scale. It’s also deeply unfair to all of the legitimate businesses who do pay the right tax, and the total recovered by the task force is equivalent to the annual salaries for more than 200 newly qualified teachers."
"We continue to work hard with other government agencies and our partners to tackle these traders. We urge anyone with information about tax evasion to report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887."
HMRC are also working alongside the Scottish SPCA, RSPCA, Ulster SPCA, Dublin SPCA, Irish SPCA, HMRC and other authorities in Operation Delphin. Operation Delphin aims to disrupt the illegal puppy trade.
The head of the Scottish SPCA’s Special Investigations Unit, who cannot be named due to his undercover operations, said:
"Unfortunately, the puppy trade is big business with thousands of dogs being brought into the country each year, particularly from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is a multi-million pound industry and many of these poor dogs are bred on large scale puppy farms with little to no regard for their welfare."
"It’s a barbaric trade which commands huge profit from selling puppies. Often these puppies are kept in appalling conditions and this leads to injuries, health issues and behavioural problems. Some are so far gone that they pass away from complications due to the way they are bred and kept."
Last year nearly half of all animals seized by the Scottish SPCA were rescued from puppy farms and I would urge everyone to sign the pledge #SayNoToPuppyDealers and send a clear message that this cruel trade has to end.