It is the second black market in the world behind drugs.
At dawn on November 11, 2015, the police in Udine (in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy) stopped a car coming from Slovakia. Inside, in precarious conditions, were 49 puppies of various breeds, among others, pinschers, chihuahuas, cavalier kings, maltese, pomeranians, poodles, and german shepherds. There were no microchips or accompanying documents. At the wheel was a Turin man of 60 years. This man had criminal records in Tuscany, Liguria, Piedmont and Lombardy. He was charged for this crime, and the vehicle used for the illegal transport was seized.
All the puppies, which were less than 3 or 4 months old, were immediately entrusted to veterinarian control, which provided first aid. (I don’t know if all survived or if any had temporary or permanent health problems.) But I read that at the police station in Udine long lines immediately formed of people hoping to adopt the puppies.
The police commander explained: “The illegal traffic of animals is one of those crimes that hits hard because the dogs travel as merchandise, especially by night, enclosed in boxes or bags, or hidden in baggage, where they remain crushed for 10 or 11 hours without food and water. In this case, the puppies particularly suffered because the van had not been adapted for the transport of animals. It lacked adequate ventilation, temperature control, and insulation.”
The international illegal trade in animals, according to recent statistics, constitutes the second most lucrative black market in the world, behind that of drugs. (In certain parts of the world, the weapons’ trade ranks up there too.) A puppy born outside of Italy can be worth up to 20 times its Italian equivalent. So certain breeds born elsewhere can be sold to a trafficker for 200 euros and then resold in Italy for 1500 euros.
While there are many ethical breeders, there are so many “puppy mills” that rapidly breed dogs often from a small gene pool. Some puppies are born in terrible conditions and some are very ill. Unsuspecting new owners can be saddled with enormous vet bills, and then some puppies die weeks later anyway.
The black market in these animals is a health issue. Most of these dogs are not vaccinated and do not have a rabies certificate. Authorities worry about transmissible diseases both in Europe and in the United States.
I also think that the American Kennel Club contributes to the problem. It stimulates demand for certain breeds partially through dog shows. It also sets beauty standards, for example, the thick coats of cocker spaniels. This, in turn, leads to selective breeding often at the expense of temperament. Some breeds have come to be associated with unpleasant or mean personalities.