People are being urged to be on their guard when buying a dog after a 500% rise in complaints about puppy farms.
The RSPCA, Durham Constabulary and Durham County Council have joined forces to tackle the heartbreak caused by unlicensed and unscrupulous puppy traders.
Sick and dying puppies, poor housing conditions and paperwork which is either non-existent or fake are among the complaints flooding into the authorities.
Last year the RSPCA received 157 calls from people in County Durham raising concerns about the puppy trade compared to just 29 in 2010, a rise of more than 500%.
Police have also warned that behind the facade of a respectable seller is sometimes a web of organised crime.
The county council is also experiencing a rise in the number of people reporting rogue traders and poor animal welfare.
RSPCA Chief Inspector Mark Gent said: “Many puppies are been being sold with no regard to welfare, legislation or you the buyer! Dealers are making vast amounts of money for themselves, but leaving a trail of pain and suffering behind them.
“Many of these puppies are bred in large breeding barns in poor conditions and sold in bulk to dealers. They can come from countries such as Eire, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania.”
Durham Constabulary Neighbourhood Inspector, Martin Peace, said: “Often proceeds from the sales of the puppies are fed back into the criminal world and so a seemingly innocent purchase could actually be feeding organised crime, which is why we are asking people to take the time to make those all-important paper trail checks before leaving with a dog.”
Michael Yeadon, health protection manager at the council, said: “The guidance regarding dog breeding has been clarified. Now it doesn’t matter how many breeding dogs you have or how many litters they produce a year, if you are making a profit from selling puppies it’s very likely you’ll need a license.
“We want to work together to stop unscrupulous puppy peddling and to protect everyone from the heartache of bringing a puppy home and finding out it wasn’t everything you hoped it would be.”
More advice and information, including a list of all licenced puppy breeders in County Durham is available at www.durham.gov.uk/buyingapuppy.
People buying a puppy are being urged to:
•Ask to see a pedigree/breed certificate or Kennel Club registration and look at it carefully.
•Check the vaccination certificate and the date and place of birth.
•Check vets documents if the puppy has a docked tai.
•Check the puppy is microchipped and ask to see the breeder’s licence.