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Buying pet from puppy farms could fund organised crime, families warned

Prosecutors have warned buying a puppy from unlicensed breeders can help fund organised crime (Alamy/PA)
Prosecutors have warned buying a puppy from unlicensed breeders can help fund organised crime (Alamy/PA)

Families are being urged not buy puppies online as Christmas presents amid fears money exchanged may be used by criminal gangs.

The warning comes as illegally-bred puppies sold through a black-market trade on social media or small advert sites were identified by prosecutors as a source of revenue for organised crime gangs.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is concerned money raised by illegal breeders could be laundered to support drug traffickers and other criminality.

A Scottish multi-agency strategic threat assessment published last year estimated the market for illegally-traded puppies at £13 million.

So far this year, the Scottish SPCA animal welfare charity has received 336 calls in connection with suspected puppy farms and puppy breeding.

The charity says many animals later suffer severe health problems and either cost their owners huge vet bills or are too ill to survive their first few months.

Kenny Donnelly, deputy Crown agent for specialist casework at COPFS, said: “We understand the popular appeal of buying a puppy for Christmas. But it is important that people are aware that unscrupulous breeders are operating online and targeting unsuspecting members of the public.

“We are aware that organised crime gangs have infiltrated this activity and continue to use the huge profits they accrue from it to inflict widespread harm on communities throughout Scotland.

“Illegal puppy-farming has grown significantly among serious organised crime gangs as a way of raising finance. It plays a part in financing crime in Scotland. These gangs are involved in the distribution of illegal drugs and money laundering.

“Therefore, it is critically important that anyone considering buying a puppy is aware of the pitfalls in respect of not buying from legitimate dog breeders and unintentionally supporting this cruel and illegal trade which exploits pets and causes them terrible suffering.

“This trade is inevitably more focused at Christmas, so we would seriously urge people to only buy puppies from properly licensed breeders.

Puppy
The Scottish SPCA warned dogs from puppy farms often suffer complex and life-threatening health problems (Alamy/PA)

“By doing this, you are also helping to choke off a revenue supply to serious organised crime gangs and reducing the harm they inflict on Scottish communities.”

Price tags for some designer breeds of dog can reach as high as £3,000.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Although the low-welfare trade in puppies has slowed due to the ending of lockdown and the cost-of-living crisis, we know that unscrupulous breeders are still out there targeting unsuspecting members of the public.

“Trafficked pups often look fine when they are purchased, but problems will begin to show at a later stage.

“Our message to the general public remains the same – do not buy online or from someone where it is impossible to verify where the dog is actually coming from. The only way this will disappear, and people stop profiteering at the expense of these dogs, is if the public demand it stops.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Ferry, of Police Scotland, said: “We know organised criminals will take every opportunity to exploit people to make profit from illicit activities, and dog breeding is not immune.

“Anyone considering buying a puppy should research the potential breeder carefully, as unauthorised breeding can have a significant impact on the welfare of dogs.

“Police Scotland continues to work closely with our colleagues in the Serious Organised Crime taskforce to target those involved and investigate any illegal trading.”