THE illegal puppy trade was worth at least £13 million in Scotland last year, it is claimed.

Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell made the claim as the animal charity launched a new campaign to defeat the black market industry yesterday.

The drive, in conjunction with the Scottish Government, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and other organisations, aims to deter pet lovers from paying for pups reared in cruel and unsafe conditions through the website

Campbell said: “The growing illegal trade is, put simply, organised crime and at present there is little deterrent.

“While we already work with Scottish Government and our partners to improve animal welfare legislation we are conscious that demand for pups is growing and we must raise more awareness of the damaging effects of puppy farming to prevent people inadvertently funding the trade.

“Puppy farming has been a priority issue for us and our partners for quite some time. Individually we have been making some progress, but the industry has grown exponentially and it’s clear that a unified approach is the only way forward.”

RSPCA, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Trading Standards Scotland, Blue Cross, OneKind, BSAVA and Edinburgh University are also part of the initiative.

Research by the university last year showed farmed pups are more likely to have genetic disorders and be at greater risk of deadly infectious diseases such as parvovirus, which can cost up to £4,000 in veterinary treatment.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Those involved in puppy dealing or illegal breeding can earn thousands of pounds from a single litter but while they count their cash, the dogs which they are exploiting inevitably suffer.

“The Scottish SPCA’s campaign has my full support. I urge anyone planning to buy a puppy to follow the available guidance.”