NEW concerns have been raised about a rise in illegal puppy trading after 13 were seized from a dealer by Scotland's leading animal welfare charity.

Investigating officers from the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals swooped on Cairnryan port at the weekend where an individual travelling from Ireland was caught with 13 dogs of various breeds. The pups are just a few weeks old.

Whilst most of the pups are now lively and bright, two had to be rushed for emergency vet treatment as they were having respiratory issues. One has recovered but the other did not and the puppy had to be put to sleep.

It lead to concerns that puppy trading is ramping up as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The charity says that in Scotland selling any more than two puppies breaks the law as it is designated unde the Pet Animals Act 1951 as operating a pet shop without a licence to do so.

One in five puppies bought online get sick or die in their first year, while sales in Scotland rose by 25% in 2018, according to the Kennel Club.

Almost half of all dogs in Scotland are bought online and just over a quarter came from an approved breeder.

The Scottish SPCA said activity at Cairnryan had been quiet since the coronavirus lockdown started on March 23.

HeraldScotland:

The SSPCa said that in recent weeks it had reason to believe puppy traders may be beginning to move dogs again with the aim of selling them to unsuspecting members of the public.

Since March 23, the Society’s inspectors and animal rescue officers have dealt with over 10,000 reports of animals in need.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The lockdown initially led to a dramatic decrease in activity in the puppy trade. However, we have been keeping a close eye on things and we are concerned traders and dealers are becoming more active again, even more so now lockdown restrictions have eased slightly in Scotland.”

“We cannot stress this enough: the supply for badly-bred puppies will only disappear if public demand stops. Every year, thousands of pups are dying alone and in pain, at just days or weeks old, to fuel the trade. We will continue to fight the puppy trade every step of the way, but we need each and every person to do their bit to help us stop it."

READ MORE: Looking after the pets let down by humans

The seized dogs are receiving urgent vet treatment and round-the-clock care at a SSPCA animal rescue and rehoming centre.

The charity say that the dogs, although lively, are in poor body condition, carrying diseases consistent with being bred in "horrendous circumstances". All were described as "filthy" when found by inspectors.

The individual transporting the puppies received a warning and agreed to pay any vet bills to treat them.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Flynn added: “Many responsible breeders put a hold on breeding during the pandemic, but we are aware of some breeders ramping up prices due to lack of supply. This could drive people to buy a puppy without doing their homework on where they are getting it from.”

“There are thousands of adverts on websites like Gumtree for puppies, but there is no guarantee you are buying from a responsible breeder when you shop online. Many dealers will use false names and phone numbers to sell a dog, making it impossible for a buyer to get a hold of them when the pup falls ill.”

There were fears Scotland could become a hub for illegal puppy trading, after legislation was passed last year in England and Wales banning the sale of young animals by anyone who was not involved in their breeding.

The Scottish government said in November that it would introduce laws to regulate the sale of young animals this year.

A Buy a Puppy Safely campaign urged people to "look beyond cute", walk away from the sale and phone the SSPCA, which leads Operation Delphin, a UK-wide taskforce set up to disrupt the illicit puppy trade, believed to be worth £13m in Scotland alone.

Illegally-bred dogs are more likely to have genetic disorders and deadly infectious diseases. They are also more likely to be aggressive, afraid and anxious, according to research from the SSPCA and University of Edinburgh.

Buyers are being urged to make three "puppy checks" before agreeing a sale.

The checks include asking to see the puppy's mother and paperwork such as vaccination certificates. Potential buyers are also warned against trying to rescue puppies from illegal or dangerous situations.

The SPCA has been on the frontline of animal rescue throughout the pandemic, continuing to attend to urgent reports of animals in need.