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Kennel owner faces smuggling charges

Thousands of puppies shipped in battery conditions from Eastern Europe to kennel in the Vaucluse and sold to French families

CUSTOMS officers have uncovered a major dog smuggling operation in the south of France that is thought to have netted more than €4m in three years.

The kennel, in the Vaucluse (around Avignon), is said to have received 9,000 puppies smuggled from Eastern Europe in what officers described as appalling conditions.

The malnourished, dehydrated dogs were shipped more than 100 at a time in the back of a van and sold to people in France with fake medical and ID documents.

The smuggling operation selected dogs according to which breeds were most popular at the time in France - mostly Jack Russells, labradors, Yorkshire terriers and chihuahas. They fetched between €800 and €2,000 each.

Officers seized 150 dogs in transit and blood tests revealed none of them had been vaccinated against rabies. Some had had their tails trimmed without anaesthetic.

The tests also revealed that many of the dogs were too young to be sold - the legal minimum for puppies sold individually is 14 weeks.

One customs officer told Le Figaro: "Some of the dogs still had their eyes half open and were looking for their mother, who was thousands of kilometres away."

The authorities were alerted to the problem following a complaint by the SPA animal welfare charity. They have written to everyone known to have bought from the kennel, warning them of possible behavioural problems and urging them to have their animal fully checked by a vet.

The kennel owner has been arrested and questioned by police and faces up to two years in prison and a €37,500 fine.

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