Almost 100 puppies being kept in 'hugely inappropriate' conditions seized off ferry coming from Ireland
Almost 100 puppies have been rescued from a "shocking example" of the illegal puppy trade.
Two shipments of dogs - including beagles, basset hounds, labradoodles and pomeranians - were intercepted at Holyhead Port in North Wales by Border Force officials, the RSPCA said.
The puppies - aged around six or seven weeks' old - were on two separate ferries arriving at Holyhead from Dublin on Tuesday morning and were being kept in "hugely inappropriate" conditions.
The vehicles were not ventilated, the puppies had not been provided with food and water and they were often kept in filthy conditions.
In the second vehicle, an attempt had been made to conceal the transported puppies behind bales of wood shavings.
The RSPCA said that after an initial veterinary inspection, the puppies were deemed fit to travel and were returned to the Republic of Ireland, where they are now in care.
Ian Briggs, of the RSPCA's special operations unit, said: "These poor puppies were being carted into Wales in deeply inappropriate conditions in the early hours of the morning.
"Sadly, to unscrupulous dealers, these young pups are nothing more than a cash bonanza - and dealers would have been targeting tens of thousands of pounds from these shipments.
"This is another shocking example of people being readily prepared to act illegally and compromise the welfare of defenceless animals to make a quick buck - but, fortunately, they were stopped in their tracks.
"The RSPCA was delighted to be able to work so closely with a number of partner agencies to target these puppy dealers, and their involvement with us demonstrates the importance of working together in the interests of animal welfare. We are hugely grateful as to the commitment they have shown this critical issue.
"We believe thousands of unsuspecting buyers purchase puppies who have been imported in shocking conditions, handing huge profits to unscrupulous traders."
Gareth Pritchard, Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales Police and National Police Chiefs' Council lead for dangerous dogs and companion animals, added: "There is concern from many police forces about how criminals are seeking to make money from illegal and inappropriate puppy importation. These activities can cause severe animal welfare problems and provide revenue for criminals.
"We are pleased to work with the RSPCA on this important operation and the recent activity does demonstrate the scale of the problem. We will continue our discussions with the Welsh Government and Defra to seek improved controls on importation."