A MAN has been jailed for illegally importing docked and cropped puppies into the UK, “putting the nations rabies-free status at risk”.

Peter Graham Harman, 38 and of Verwood, pleaded guilty to being the sole trader of UK Dobermans, importing and selling docked and cropped puppies, making nearly £1million in the process.

He also pleaded guilty to acquiring the proceeds from these sales, evading the Rabies Order 1974 by importing eight Doberman puppies into Great Britain on May 25, 2018, doing the same with seven puppies on June 25, 2018, and with ten on July 12, 2018, and for arranging for the puppies to be delivered to a place other than stated on the passports, like service stations for example.

Harman was jailed for the offences, which spanned between February 2017 and March 2020, at Bournemouth Crown Court on Monday.

Prosecuting, Malcolm Gibney told the court Harman had operated UK Dobermans since 2016, and since the business’ existence, Trading Standards suspected the defendant was “circumnavigating the rules” surrounding the importation of cropped and docked puppies by using Eastern European colleagues.

He said: “In January 2017, the defendant was interviewed by Trading Standards under caution regarding suspected consumer protection offences.

“A decision was made on this occasion to issue him with a written warning which was due to the fact he told officers he would be closing his business.

“The defendant clearly had no intention of closing his business because he kept operating.”

Mr Gibney said Harman set up a business relationship with Spinegate Kennels, based in Weymouth, and rented a kennel space where the puppies were kept before being sold.

He renewed his pet shop licence in April 2019 after further contact from Trading Standards, then his relationship with the kennel ended as he owed £9,000.

Harman then changed his business model to deliver puppies to the customers’ address.

In September 2019, eight Doberman puppies with Serbian passports but Romanian microchips were detained at the Eurotunnel which raised suspicion about their country of origin, the same dogs were stopped on August 13.

Eventually, officers searched Harman’s address, and found conversations on his phone with eastern European colleagues which demonstrated he understood the regulations he was breaking.

On eight occasions, Harman’s customers did not receive the puppy they had ordered and paid for, with his business being described as “disgraceful”.

Mr Gibney said £370,000 was transferred to Harman, most of which was deposits, and an estimated sum of £600,000 was found in cash.

He added: “By bringing underage dogs and dogs from outside of EU who could not have been properly vaccinated, he has put the UK’s Rabies-free status at risk.

“It is important that the perpetrators are stopped for the sake of the disease to the UK and the welfare of the dogs.”

Mitigating, Syan Venton said Harman continued operating because he didn’t want to let his customers down and the dogs dropped off at service stations were stops on the way to the intended address.

Despite this, Judge Stephen Climie sentenced Harman to 28 months imprisonment.

He said: “The whole of the UK was at risk of losing its rabies-free status, although the limited ways in which rabies can be transmitted, it is a factor which lies heavily on this court.

“Immediate custody will show all those involved what will happen if they put this country at risk.”

Ivan Hancock, service manager for Trading Standards at Dorset Council, said: "Our Trading Standards team work with other agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

"We ensure pet animals brought into the country adhere to the strict rules in place to make sure they are fit and healthy - and do not pose a risk of introducing diseases to the UK.

"These rules include the rabies controls which were breached numerous times in this case, and over a considerable time period.

"Some countries, such as Serbia, are not classed as rabies-free and so to import animals from these countries there are strict quarantine procedures to follow and Harman has sought to avoid these.

"Having circumvented the import controls on these puppies he has then gone on to mislead buyers, as to the history and transport of these animals, all of which amounts to his guilt as operator of a fraudulent business over a three year period."