Risks of buying illegally-imported dogs

Date published: 15 December 2017

If you're thinking of buying a pet dog, beware unknowingly paying for one which has come from outside the UK and has not been properly vaccinated. Disease and having the dog quarantined are some of the risks.

Illegal trade

There is an ongoing illegal trade in pups imported from eastern Europe. There has been an increase in cases of genuine buyers being duped into buying illegally-imported pups. 

These pups are often bred in very poor conditions, which give rise to major health and welfare concerns.

Risk of disease and quarantine 

All dogs entering Northern Ireland from outside the UK, must be:  

  • at least 15 weeks old
  • microchipped
  • correctly vaccinated against rabies
  • treated for tapeworm (unless the dog comes directly from Finland, Republic of Ireland, Malta or Norway)
  • in possession of a pet passport or veterinary certificate

Where the legal requirements are not met, pets will either: 

  • go into quarantine for a period of up to four months at the owners’ expense 
  • be sent back to the country they have travelled from or
  • face the possibility of being destroyed

This is necessary to keep Northern Ireland free of diseases such as rabies and Alveolar Echinococcus (a very severe human disease caused by tapeworms).

Not all families will be able to afford these additional costs and therefore face the risk of having to experience the heartache of not being reunited with their family pet.


Useful advice about buying puppies (and specifically imported dogs)  is provided on the following page: 

It also has detailed guidance on the requirements for pet animals being brought into Northern Ireland from countries outside the UK.

Alternatively anyone considering bringing a pet into the country can contact Trade Section, DAERA for advice by: 

It is also worth remembering there are many puppies and dogs cared for by local animal charities needing new homes with caring owners.

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