ANIMAL lovers looking to buy a puppy in the run-up to Christmas are being urged to “walk away” if they suspect it has been bred in an illegal puppy farm.

Sheila Voas, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland, said people should be “cautious and do their homework” at what was the most popular time for puppy purchasing.

She issued the warning as the Scottish Government launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the signs that indicate a dog has been bred illegally.

Only a quarter (24%) of those buying a puppy do so from an approved breeder, recent studies suggest.

Online sales of dogs are estimated to amount to £13 million a year, but a large proportion of these could be illegally farmed animals.

The Scottish Government has now set up a website – – with information on how to spot illegally bred dogs.

Buyers are urged to check for breeders’ local authority licence and membership of the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme, as well as the dog’s vaccination and microchipping certificates.

Voas added: “The most important thing is to see the puppy with its mother and to get the correct paperwork. If there’s no mum and no paperwork, then walk away and report your concerns to the Scottish SPCA helpline.”