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Importing rescue dogs into the UK: reasons, methods and welfare considerations
  1. Charlotte Norman1,
  2. Jenny Stavisky2 and
  3. Carri Westgarth1,3
  1. 1 School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Neston, UK
  2. 2 Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine, University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, Nottingham, UK
  3. 3 Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Neston, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carri Westgarth, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Neston L69 3BX, UK; carri.westgarth{at}


Background Rescuing dogs from overseas is increasing in popularity but has associated risks. This study is the first to investigate the reasons why people bring rescue dogs into the UK from overseas, the importation process, and potential welfare problems associated with this practice.

Methods An online questionnaire was advertised on social media in 2017 and received 3080 responses.

Results Participants primarily chose to adopt from abroad based on a desire for a particular dog they had seen advertised and on concern for its situation. However, some were motivated by previously having been refused dogs from UK rescues. Adopters reported that the EU Pet Travel Scheme was used to import 89 per cent of dogs, with only 1.2 per cent reportedly under the more stringent (and correct) Balai Directive. 14.8 per cent (79/533) of dogs reportedly tested for Leishmania infantum had positive results. Although sometimes severe, the prevalence of behavioural problems appeared comparable to that of other rescue dogs.

Conclusion It is important that vets consider testing for exotic diseases, and the provision of behavioural support, when seeing imported patients. Our findings emphasise the importance of clear guidelines on travel laws, and stricter checks on animals imported as rescues, to ensure protection against the importation of diseases that pose a risk to animal and human health in the UK.

  • dogs
  • problem behaviour
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • social media
  • rescue
  • disease control

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Competing interests Miss Norman was awarded a studentship from the Animal Welfare Foundation to conduct the study and she grew up living at a kennels and cattery that included stray and RSPCA dogs. Dr Westgarth previously worked in an RSPCA shelter for stray dogs. Dr Stavisky has nothing to disclose.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the University of Liverpool Veterinary Research Ethics Committee (Study VREC554) and by the University of Nottingham Ethics Committee (2103 170904).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon request.

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