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11 May 2017, 15:22
Demand for designer puppies in Scotland is driving an increase in unlicensed breeding, MSPs have been told.
Mark Rafferty, chief inspector in the special investigations unit of the Scottish SPCA, said there was an "unquenchable'' appetite for new or designer breeds of dogs with price tags averaging £1,000.
Celebrity and consumer culture was contributing to animals and dogs being seen as "throwaway commodities'' for some people, he told Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee.
"Unfortunately, I can't give you a number but it is a very serious and significant amount of animals that are coming into Scotland,'' he said.
The committee is considering a petition from campaigner Eileen Bryant which calls for tougher action to address the farming and illegal transportation of puppies.
Mr Rafferty said while Scotland did not have a problem with large-scale puppy farms as in Ireland, there was "very little'' enforcement at the sales end to deal with people breaching their licence or selling while unlicensed.
He agreed with Tory MSP Maurice Corry, who suggested fashions were having a "significant impact in driving demand and potentially leading to an increase in unlicensed breeding''.
Mr Rafferty said: "What you are getting is irresponsible or downright deceitful breeding of adult dogs that are producing pups that actually don't fit the breed standard because there is no breed standard.
"So, there is a cavalier or irresponsible approach by the breeders to the puppies.''
Some breeders were paying little regard to the welfare of the dogs, resulting in congenital defects and behavioural issues, he added.
"I think that's having an effect on the population of dogs in Scotland as a whole, a negative effect.''
He said the issue was also having an impact on communities, as a result of organised crime using the puppy industry as a means to launder profits from conventional criminality such as drugs.
Ms Bryant's petition urges the Scottish Government to investigate measures to regulate the sale and "deplorable'' living conditions of puppies and to consider a campaign to raise public awareness.
MSPs agreed to write to ministers, Police Scotland, animal welfare groups and local councils, as well as a range of interested organisations, to seek more information on the issue.