Rural-urban dynamics in the UK illegal puppy trade: Trafficking and trade in 'man's best friend'

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Jennifer A Maher
Tanya Wyatt, Professor


Recently, much attention has been given to the presence and increase of transnational crime, particularly focusing on online illicit markets. A seldom-explored aspect of transnational online illicit markets is the rural to urban flow of the illicit goods. This paper details research on the UK puppy trade, documenting the movement of puppies reared in irresponsible and/or illegal conditions in rural locations and then advertised online for the urban market. Through analysis of online advertisements in Scotland and expert interviews, a stakeholder survey, and focus groups across Great Britain, we document the rural-urban dynamic of an overlooked transnational illicit market, a market facilitated by neo-liberalism and speciesism. While estimates on the value of the trade are problematic, the snapshot of online sales in Scotland alone suggests a marketplace with an annual value of at least £13 million (17,680 puppies). The cost of animal suffering associated with this trade is incalculable. Awareness must be raised and regulatory enforcement improved to reduce suffering and stop transnational criminals from profiting. This rural-urban dynamic presents a global challenge and demands an international response.

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