Monika Tarasovicova (32), was convicted in court last month of by-passing rabies protection laws by illegally importing puppies from Slovakia, and with running an illegal pet shop from her home in Belmont Crescent, Maidenhead.
Sarah Stevens, trading standards officer at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, said: “We launched an investigation into this case when a local vet came forward with concerns about a puppy that a client had brought to their surgery.
“The client had bought the puppy in good faith, but became concerned about its health, and suspicious about the legality of the sale, and so they returned it to Ms Tarasovicova.
“When I visited Ms Tarasovicova’s home I found both the original puppy and another, both Shiba Inus, and I made sure they were safely put into quarantine.
“Two independent vets confirmed that the puppies were much younger than the age suggested on the pet passports, meaning they were too young for their rabies vaccinations and could not therefore have been lawfully and safely brought to the UK.”
The court heard that the puppies had been advertised for sale by Ms Tarasovicova on well-known pet websites. It also learned that this was not the first time Ms Tarasovicova had brought puppies to the UK from Slovakia.
Evidence from the council’s investigation showed she had been illegally importing puppies for a number of years, and although she was unsure of the exact number of puppies she’d sold during this time, because she kept no records, the court heard that the figure was thought to be in the region of 20-25.
Ms Tarasovicova had also received prior warnings about her behaviour from Environmental Health but had failed to take any remedial measures to ensure that she complied with the law.
Ms Tarasovicova pleaded guilty to two offences under the Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011, one offence under the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and other Mammals) Order 1974 and Sections 73 and 76 of the Animal Health Act 1981; and one offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in failing to be licensed to sell puppies.
She was fined £4,000 with costs awarded of £2,500 and a £170 victim surcharge.
Sarah Stevens said: “Since the start of this investigation, new legislation nicknamed ‘Lucy’s Law’ has been introduced to make it illegal for third party sellers to sell puppies and kittens, which should be bought direct from the breeder.
“Unfortunately, the law still allows for the importation of puppies from outside of England to be sold under a pet sales licence. The importation of young puppies for sale in England can, as in this case, mean premature separation of the puppy from its mother, and lead to potential trauma and health issues associated with transportation.
“Trading Standards always advises consumers to do their homework before buying a pet by researching who you’re buying from, and to never buy without seeing the puppy with its mother, ideally more than once.
“Never pay a deposit up-front without seeing the puppy in person. Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more.
“If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller.”
Councillor David Cannon, lead member for public protection said: “We’re very proud of the highly professional work done by Sarah during this investigation.
“Not only has she helped protect residents from the potential importation of diseases such as rabies, but she has also stood up for the welfare of defenceless animals on behalf of the whole borough.”
If you’re worried about the welfare of an animal that’s for sale you can contact:
- RSPCA Cruelty Hotline on 0300 1234 999
- Trading Standards – Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline: 0808 223 1133
Further advice is also available online from the UK Government website.