THE RSPCA received 37 reports of 'puppy traders' in Dorset this year, it has been revealed.

The charity released the figures after plans to crack down on dog breeders who put profits ahead of the health and welfare of the animals were announced by the government.

This year has been the RSPCA's busiest when it comes to tackling the illegal puppy trade.

Regulations around the breeding and selling of puppies in England are due to be tightened in the biggest change in pet vending for 66 years. The illegal puppy trade is worth millions of pounds a year.

As part of the changes, licensed dog breeders must show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made.

Puppy sales must be completed in the presence of the new owner, preventing online sales where prospective buyers haven't seen the animal first.

Licensed dog breeders must also only sell puppies they have bred themselves as part of the scheme.

Government officials will also regulate adverts, including online, by ensuring licensed sellers of all pets include the seller's licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet.

RSPCA interim chief executive Michael Ward said: “This is good news for the hundreds of thousands of dogs bought and sold in England every year.

“This year our inspectors, working with the police and councils, rescued hundreds of puppies and breeding dogs being kept in miserable, squalid conditions by heartless people cashing in on the growing market for puppies.

“We hope these proposed licensing conditions for England, which include a ban on breeders selling puppies other than from their licensed premises, will improve the welfare of puppies and their parents and also crackdown on the multi-million pound illegal trade making it less likely that people are duped by rogue dealers.

“We also welcome moves to stop the illegal smuggling of puppies which is a vile trade resulting in the suffering and death of countless dogs.”

Representatives from government department Defra have also pledged to look tackling the illegal smuggling of puppies.

This year so far, the RSPCA has rescued 295 dogs from puppy farms.

RSPCA dog welfare expert, Lisa Hens, said: “The RSPCA has long held grave concerns for the many dogs who continue to suffer ill-health and welfare because they have been bred primarily for how they look.

“We believe that all those who breed dogs - whether pedigree, purebred or crossbreed - should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed, in order to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring, and welcome proposals to address this.

“We would welcome further information on these proposals and how they would be enforced.”