Pet buyers put on alert.
PET buyers are being warned to be careful about who they buy their animals from after a massive increase in public concern over the puppy trade.
The warning comes from the RSPCA, Durham Constabulary and Durham County Council who have joined forces to tackle unlicensed and unscrupulous sellers.
Last year the RSPCA received 157 calls from people in County Durham raising concerns about the puppy trade compared to just 29 in 2010 - a rise of more than 500%.
Michael Yeadon, health protection manager at Durham County Council, said: "We want to work together to stop unscrupulous puppy pedalling and to protect everyone from the heartache of bringing a puppy home and finding out it wasn't everything you hoped it would be."
Sick and dying puppies, poor housing conditions and paperwork which is either non-existent or fake are amongst a raft of complaints received by the agencies from concerned members of the public in the county.
Rogue traders can make big profits and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods.