A total of 80 puppies, kittens, cats and dogs have been recovered by Police and the Scottish SPCA in an operation targeting the low-welfare puppy trade yesterday.

East Ayrshire police were involved in supporting the SSPCA to seize the 80 animals.

A multi agency briefing was held at Kilmarnock Police Office in preparation for the enforcement activity on Friday morning, after which time search warrants were executed at two properties in East Ayrshire.

It's thought thousands of puppies are born into the illegal puppy trade every year, and are often subject to shocking conditions that can cause severe health problems.

READ MORE: Puppy farm increase during pandemic amid fears Christmas will fuel demand

A spokesperson for the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) said: “Police Scotland assisted us with the execution of two search warrants relating to animal welfare offences at properties in East Ayrshire.

“This raid was part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency taskforce set up to tackle the low-welfare puppy trade.

"Investigations are ongoing.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Ayrshire Police Division said: “Police Scotland is absolutely committed to disrupting those involved in serious and organised crime in Scotland.

“The low-welfare trade of animals is just one example where criminals seek to profit from the misery of others.

"Thousands of puppies are born into the illegal puppy trade each year.

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"Many are kept in horrendous conditions, are often removed from their mothers too early – causing distress, harm and health problems, all in the name of a quick profit.

“We work closely with a variety of organisations to detect and disrupt illegal activity in Ayrshire.

"Anyone with information on crime should contact us by calling 101 or information can be provided anonymously via CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.”

It comes after a new campaign was launched in mid-November in a bid to ensure potential puppy owners in Scotland avoid illegal dealers which have increased in number during the pandemic.

The #LookBeyondCute campaign comes after the Scottish SPCA launched 78 investigations into reports of puppy farming last month alone, with staff fearing Christmas will fuel demand.

Many illegally bred puppies are sold online through social media or small ad sites, according to the animal welfare charity, who also suggest two in five (40%) pups bought online die before their fifth birthday and 15% get sick or die in the first year.