PLANS to crackdown on dog breeders in England who put profits ahead of the welfare of animals have been welcomed by the RSPCA.

In Merseyside there were 74 puppy trade calls made to the RSPCA in 2017 and 117 in Cheshire.

Defra announced proposals on December 22 to tighten regulations around the breeding and selling of puppies in England in a move which will help put a stop to the illegal puppy trade.

This is the biggest change in pet vending for 66 years.

Under the new rules puppies bred by licensed breeders will have better protection under law and anyone selling a puppy, including online, will need to get a licence and display that licence number.

Buyers will also need to see the puppy with the mother at the place it was bred before being able to complete a purchase.

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.”

The RSPCA revealed it rescued 295 dogs from puppy farms and breeders in 2017, bringing the total number of dogs rescued since 2013 up to 1,749.

The charity has seen its busiest year yet investigating complaints relating to the puppy trade with 4,125 calls in total in England.

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.”