SHOCKING new figures released by the RSPCA show that calls concerning the puppy trade in Wales have soared by 330 per cent in the last decade.

Advice has been issued to prospective dog owners as the bombshell figures reveal that the murky puppy trade is a growing problem in Wales – with Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire seeing a huge increase in calls.

Last year (2018) saw the RSPCA receive 492 reports of concern relating to ‘puppy trade’ in Wales. Of those, 65 reports came from Carmarthenshire and 33 from Ceredigion.

That is in stark contrast to 2009, when just 105 reports were received from the whole of Wales – 22 from Carmarthenshire and eight from Ceredigion.

The 2018 figure is by far the largest on record - while year-on-year increases have been evident in Wales since 2012. Over the last decade, 2,242 calls relating to the ‘puppy trade’ in Wales have been received by the RSPCA - but more than half of these have come in the last three years.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “It is distressing that we are still seeing so many reports about the puppy trade in Wales.

“Part of this increase is potentially due to people being savvier about what to look out for when getting a pet, but a 330 per cent soar in call figures over a decade is still a huge concern.

“Sadly, we fear an increased clamour for certain popular types of dog is partly fuelling the underground, unscrupulous puppy trade that puts a quick buck before the welfare of these poor pups.

“We know there’s a spike in people searching for puppies at the beginning of the school holidays but we’d urge families to carefully consider whether getting a dog is right for them.

“If you do have the time and money for a dog then we’d urge you to consider rescuing instead of buying a puppy. Not only will this give a rescue dog a chance at finding his forever home but it’ll also save any potential heartache caused by unwittingly buying a dog from a puppy farm.”

Positively, however, the statistics follow a recent announcement from the Welsh Government as to their plans to ban the third party sale of puppies and kittens.

The move would mean anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must either deal directly with the breeder or with a rehoming centre.

Plans were also announced by the Welsh Government to revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions at breeding establishments. New regulations came into force in Wales in April 2015 - and the RSPCA hopes reviewing these can further drive up welfare standards for breeding dogs and their puppies.

Claire Lawson, RSPCA Cymru's assistant director for external relations, added: "These troubling figures about the scale of puppy trade reports in Wales highlight just how important Welsh Government action will be.

“Sadly, too often, we hear of early separation from mothers, unfamiliar environments and multiple journeys acting as a grim reality for puppies sold for big profits in the murky puppy trade.

“A ban on third party sales will – we hope - help bring to an end the hugely inappropriate conditions many of these young animals face, where profit is too readily put before their welfare.

“Plans to review dog breeding regulations is also great news. Tackling areas like genetic issues and a staff-to-dog ratio that better considers welfare could make these establishments so much better for dogs.”

Cllr Philip Hughes, executive board member for public protection in Carmarthenshire, said: “We have been proactive in identifying dog breeders and ensuring that they are appropriately licensed – unfortunately this does sometimes result in unfair comparisons with other parts of the UK that may not have worked as proactively to identify and license breeders.

"We have a team of officers who are actively engaged in this work, actively monitoring online sites and areas of social media used by unlicensed traders and who are responsible for licensing and annual inspections to ensure welfare conditions are met."