Northamptonshire families looking to add a dog to their home should beware of criminals selling illegally imported puppies, officials say.
Over the summer, many new owners have had to take their puppies to the vets for treatment. Two puppies have died.
The warning from the county council's trading standards team comes after a spike in the number of complaints in recent months.
Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards is urging Northampton folk to make sure they know where their new puppy has come from and has had a health check by a vet.
Councillor André Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member public protection said: “Bringing your new puppy home should be a wonderful time for a new owner, but these sad cases show how important it is to be certain of where your puppy has come from."
Illegally imported puppies may not be properly vaccinated or rabies-free.
These puppies are sold via adverts on the internet and in newspaper small ads. The dogs are accompanied by incomplete, false and forged documentation which lead buyers to believe they have been imported legally or bred in the UK.
Trading Standards says news buyers should always get as much information about where the puppy has come from, and be suspicious if the seller cannot show you the puppy with its mother and litter mates.
View the puppy where it was bred. If the puppy has been vaccinated, ask to see the documentation. This must clearly state the veterinary practice where this was carried out.
If the seller informs you that the puppy has been brought in from another country, it should have a pet passport with a valid rabies vaccination recorded in it. The date of import must be at least 21 days after the date of rabies vaccination.
Lastly, never pay for the puppy in advance.
Councillor Gonzalez de Savage said: "Anyone who has concerns about a puppy they have bought should contact their vet in the first instance. If you suspect your puppy has been illegally imported, you can report it to Trading Standards by calling 03454 040506 or by visiting the citizen's advice website.