A heightened inspection of animals imported at Helsinki's seaports by authorities last Friday found that the illegal pet trade and puppy-farmed dogs remain a problem in Finland.
Last summer it was reported that there were more dogs in Finland than ever before - around 700,000 of the canines. Their increasing popularity also appears to be encouraging the illegal trade in animals.
The one-day inspection of animals arriving at Helsinki's harbours was carried out by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, Finnish Customs and Helsinki city veterinarians.
The inspectors said they found shortcomings of some kind in 17 out of the 38 animals they examined. Thirty-six of the animals were dogs.
Seventeen of the animals did not meet Finland's entry requirements, for reasons like not having a required pet passport or hadn't been vaccinated against rabies.
Authorities said they were forced to put down four of the dogs that arrived on Friday. They were headed to their new Finnish homes, but the animals did not have the proper documents, permits or other needed paperwork.
Eleven of the dogs' travelling companions were ordered to quarantine their animals in order to ensure they met entry requirements.
After each inspection, the inspectors informed the animals' human travelling companions about the various risks of diseases and the requirements for bringing animals into the country.
Administrative agency veterinarian Sari Haikka called Friday's inspection a success, saying the heightened inspections helped to show shortcomings in many of the arriving animals.
"That's why it is important to expand and streamline this kind of monitoring," Haikka said.
She also noted that Finland needs to protect itself from rabies, saying that her agency recommends rabies screenings for street dogs imported from Russia or Romania.
"The rabies situation in Turkey is also serious," Haikka said.
When arriving animals are not properly documented or there are vaccination shortcomings, they can face being sent back to their country of origin, be quarantined and in some cases the animal is put down, she said.
"Suspicion of rabies almost always leads to putting the animal down. Rabies and tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus) do not exist in Finland, and hopefully will not in the future," Haikka added.
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Puppy farm imports
A large portion of illegally-sold animals in Finland arrive from Estonia. But it's common that dogs with paperwork from Estonia actually come from Russia.
Not long ago Helsinki District Court sentenced a puppy smuggler to a year in jail, a fine of 94,000 euros and a ban from owning animals for 10 years. A years-long puppy-smuggling case was reported in Tampere late last year.
"Even expensive dog breeds can come from puppy factories. A high price does not necessarily guarantee that the seller has met his or her responsibilities," Haikka said, noting that illegal pet sales continue to be a problem in Finland.
"Only a small number of such cases come to the attention of authorities," she explained.
Finland's requirements for dogs and cats
All dogs brought to Finland from the EU need to have documented proof they have received proper vaccinations and medications.
Individuals who bring in dogs also need to ensure the animals are outfitted with electronic identification chips and have a pet passport.
There are also requirements for arriving felines. If an imported cat is to be sold in Finland, the animal needs a clean bill of health document issued by the EU's Traces (Trade Control and Expert System) organisation, a process that requires a vet check-up in the animal's country of origin 48 hours before travelling to Finland.