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Six puppies have been rescued after being found covered in oil in the back of a van in Dover.

The three Maltese, two Havanese and one bichon frise pups, aged around 11 weeks, were found in an "appalling condition" and suffering from diarrhoea.

The Dogs Trust charity said they had been illegally imported from Romania in a journey that would have taken more than 24 hours, despite coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the UK preventing non-essential travel.

Image: The puppies were seized in Dover

It has now warned people about the risks of buying dogs from online adverts.

Paula Boyden, the Dogs Trust's veterinary director, said: "It is absolutely heartbreaking that we continue to see dogs being illegally imported into the country, often in terrible conditions to make huge profits for cruel puppy smugglers.

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"We might be in the midst of a pandemic, but these devious sellers will still use every trick in the book to scam unsuspecting dog lovers.

"Sadly, it's all too easy to be dogfished and it can be very difficult to know if you are buying a puppy that has been smuggled."

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Undated handout issued by the Dogs Trust showing Havanese puppies smuggled from Romania
Image: Two Havanese puppies were among the dogs smuggled from Romania

Each dog had to be shaved to get rid of the oil and are now in the Dogs Trust's care. They will be rehomed when they recover.

The charity has also saved 12 heavily pregnant dogs which gave birth to 53 puppies – worth around an additional £100,000 to smugglers.

Ms Boyden added: "We would advise you to always see a puppy with and interacting with their mum and go and see it more than once.

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