People are being urged to be on their guard when buying a dog.
Durham Constabulary, the RSPCA and Durham County Council have joined forces to warn people of the heartbreak caused by unlicensed and unscrupulous puppy traders.
Behind the facade of a respectable seller is sometimes a web of organised crime, say police.
Andy Reeves, Bishop Auckland Neighbourhood Inspector, said: “We are appealing for people to come forward who have recently bought a puppy in the Bishop Auckland area that has become ill, required veterinary treatment or subsequently died. We are working with partners to identify inappropriate selling of puppies or puppy farming in the area.
“Too often people see puppy farming as a way to make money without taking the animal’s welfare into account. The proceeds from the sales of puppies are fed back into the criminal world and so a seemingly innocent purchase could actually be feeding organised crime.
“As we approach Christmas, potential buyers of puppies are reminded that they should always see the puppy with the parent dog in the surroundings it has been raised. They should also ensure that the correct paperwork, KC or otherwise, is present and that the injections have been done by a recognised vet before handing over money.”
RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “Unfortunately there are many people out there who are willing to put profits ahead of the health and welfare of the dogs they are breeding and selling. This is why we’d urge the public to be extremely careful when looking to buy a puppy.
“Obviously, we would encourage anyone thinking of buying a dog to visit their local rescue centre first. But, if they are intent on buying a puppy, we would advise them to do a lot of research before choosing a breeder. Prospective buyers can use the Puppy Contract to help them source a happy and healthy dog, and for tips on the right questions to ask and the warning signs to look out for.
“Anyone who is concerned about the conditions they see a puppy being kept in or who is suspicious of the seller should walk away and report their concerns to us on 0300 1234 999 and their local trading standards.”
Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: “Rogue traders can make big profits from selling puppies to unsuspecting members of the public and we are working with partner agencies to identify inappropriate selling of puppies or puppy farming.”
For the main dos and don’ts of buying a puppy visit durham.gov.uk/buyingapuppy.