Animal charity welcomes crackdown on puppy farming trade
New laws include longer jail sentences, a new licensing system and rehoming without a court process.
An overhaul of animal welfare laws in Scotland will make a major difference in tackling the puppy farming industry, according to the Scottish SPCA.
New regulations announced by the Scottish Government include tougher penalties for the most serious offences.
The animal welfare charity is unable to cope with the amount of dogs from puppy farms being shipped from overseas.
It hopes the reforms - including tougher prison sentences, a new licensing system for breeders and allowing puppies to be rehomed without a court process - will help fight the growing trade.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "Hopefully it's going to ban third-party sales so you have to go to a registered breeder.
"That means they will have been inspected by a local authority, they've got a licence, their conditions are proper, the bitches are being reared properly, they're not being overbred and it will give a great assurance to the public that they're buying a healthy pup."
In August, Frank James was sentenced to nine months in prison after a raid on Scotland's biggest puppy farm in Aberdeenshire.
But for those convicted of the most serious offences like puppy farming the maximum penalty has increased from one to five years as well as an unlimited fine.
Mr Flynn said a typical case saw puppies being purchased from a back of a car for hundreds of pounds.
Sellers then often disappear, leaving no trace and disconnecting pay-as-you-go phones.
A Scottish SPCA special investigations officer, who must remain anonymous, said there had been a huge increase in cases.
They said: "There has been a solid increase over the year and we aren't able to cope with the amount of pups that are being brought in from overseas, predominantly Ireland, to be sold to people that are dying or are extremely ill.
"We can only urge people to be really vigilant when buying a pup make sure you do your homework."
Puppies that have been bred at illegal farms can often have complex medical problems. For those that think they've bought a healthy puppy, it can change rapidly within hours.
Scottish SPCA's head vet Ian Futter: "All puppies are stressed when they're rehomed, it's quite common for puppies to be unwell.
"But under these circumstances these puppies are likely to get much more unwell because of the stress on their immune system through this whole process, having travelled long distance and they've not come from particularly healthy clean backgrounds.
"They might be full of heavy worm burdens and everything is stacked against them being well."
It costs the charity hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds to treat individual puppies that come from illegal farms.
For families that purchase one, they can end up with huge veterinary bills trying to keep the animal alive.
The special investigations officer: "The cost is massive. Now the ultimate price they may pay would be a dead puppy and this happens often, far too often.
"But if your pup survives you are going to be paying out thousands of pound. At the moment the running costs for each of those pups to the society is sitting at roughly £1500 each."