Prison sentence for illegal puppy traders
A couple who ran an illegal puppy business have been sentenced to two and a half years in prison by Vienna’s Criminal Court.
The man and woman, both 32-years-old, were found guilty of serious commercial fraud.
They got the puppies from Slovakia and sold them on the Internet in Austria, for between €190 and €450. Many of the puppies had serious illnesses and either died shortly after being sold, or had to be put down.
In March the couple received a suspended sentence of 18 months for animal cruelty, which the judge ruled they will now have to serve, bringing their total jail sentence up to four years.
The couple's illegal business was discovered by activists from the animal welfare group Four Paws, who posed as potential puppy buyers and filmed 13 illegal puppies with a hidden camera.
Four Paws welcomed the ruling as a "victory of justice" and said that it hoped it will act as a signal to illegal traders that they will no longer get away with paying minor fines, but face hefty prison sentences.
Only registered breeders or traders are allowed to sell animals under Austrian law. However, the enforcement of this law for online sales has proved difficult, and not all websites are obliged to verify their listings. Many illegal puppy sales come via Eastern Europe and the so-called “puppy mafia”.
Vienna’s animal welfare councillor Ulli Sima has said that unlicensed breeders bring thousands of sick and unvaccinated animals into Austria each year.