The Customs dog on a break. LEHTIKUVA

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Finnish Customs has once again brought to light a distressing case of dog smuggling, revealing an illegal operation that has led to substantial financial gains for the perpetrators. The investigation has uncovered a web of deceit and evasion involving the illegal import of dogs from various European countries to Finland. This illicit trade has caused animal welfare concerns and economic strain on society.

Finnish Customs' relentless efforts have shed light on the issue and emphasized the importance of stringent checks for potential pet buyers to prevent such unlawful practices.

The smuggler behind the operation had cunningly evaded the necessary vaccinations and treatments required for the import of dogs into Finland. It is suspected that this illegal activity has amassed profits totaling approximately 200,000 euros. The dogs were illegally brought in from countries such as Ukraine, Hungary, Spain, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Over the past few years, around 80 dogs have been smuggled into Finland, with a significant spike occurring in 2022. To mask the commercial nature of the import, the smuggler orchestrated multiple private individuals to import the dogs, presenting them as pets rather than for resale.

Upon investigation, Finnish Customs uncovered that the smuggled dogs were being sold for a staggering sum of about 375,000 euros. However, discrepancies in the seller's bookkeeping entries and the absence of records for two years raised further suspicions. A house search in 2022 led to the discovery of numerous documents related to the dogs, accounting material, sale contracts, and illegally imported veterinary medicines.

Even more alarming was the revelation that some of the imported dogs had not received adequate vaccinations against rabies and lacked proper treatment for echinococcosis. The pet passports of these dogs contained incorrect information, and none of them possessed the required TRACES animal health certificate issued by an official veterinarian in the country of origin. Such negligence has grave implications for the welfare of the animals involved.

The import requirements put in place by Finnish Customs are designed to protect Finland from the spread of rabies and echinococcosis, ensure animal welfare, and ensure that taxes are appropriately paid. Smuggling animals not only perpetuates the shadow economy but also poses significant risks to animal health. As a result of these illegal activities, animals suffer, and the costs for society escalate.

Finnish Customs urges potential dog buyers to exercise utmost caution when acquiring a new pet. Due to the complexity of identifying illegally imported animals, it is essential to thoroughly check the background of any prospective pet. For dogs imported from within the EU territory, buyers should insist on seeing the TRACES certificate and thoroughly examine the pet passport for vaccination details. If the dog is imported from outside the EU, it should have a certificate of veterinary border inspection (CHED certificate). Failure to adhere to these precautions could result in unwittingly participating in the unlawful dealing of imported goods, in this case, illegally imported dogs.

Finnish Customs has brought forth allegations against one individual involved in the smuggling operation, including charges of smuggling, aggravated tax fraud, and aggravated accounting offenses, among others. The preliminary investigation of the case is set to conclude in early autumn 2023, following which the case will be forwarded to the prosecutor for consideration of charges.

The recent case of dog smuggling uncovered by Finnish Customs highlights the importance of maintaining vigilance against illegal activities that exploit innocent animals and pose significant risks to society. This incident serves as a stark reminder to potential pet buyers to conduct thorough background checks and ensure compliance with import requirements when acquiring dogs. Only through collective efforts can we protect animals, uphold their welfare, and create a society that values responsible pet ownership.

HT

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