Northampton's dog lovers are being warned about the dangers of buying from puppy farms.
Insurance group Gocompare.com say the country's desire for puppies has created a market for deceitful breeders to operate and thrive.
They also claim that 48% of people in Northampton and its surrounding areas do not know what a puppy farm is and could be unknowingly supporting organised crime by buying puppies from illegitimate sellers.
A spokesman from Gocompare said: "Puppy farming is a cruel practice where dogs are bred solely for profit with little or no concern for the health and well-being of the puppies or their parents.
"With no requirements to register puppies, it can be difficult to regulate and almost impossible to standardise the market
"Research shows one in five people who buy a puppy online or through a newspaper ad will spend £500 - £1,000 on vet bills in the first six months of the puppy's life."
They are now warning people thinking of buying a dog to look for the signs of a farmed puppy.
The Gocompare spokesman said: "When buying a dog, ask to see the mother. If the seller is reluctant or makes excuses why she isn't there, the chances are it's a puppy farm pup.
"Find out the age of the mother and how many litters she's had. Responsible dog breeders won't breed a dog during her first season and allow a break between seasons. For example, if a dog is five and had four litters, alarm bells should ring.
"If the mother is there, watch how she interacts with the puppy. Puppy dealers may have a 'show' mother, one that's in better condition than the actual mother, to trick unsuspecting buyers. Recent mothers are more likely to be affectionate towards the puppies.
"Never meet in a neutral location, like parks or car parks. Always ask to view the puppy where the puppy is being kept. And never buy a puppy without seeing it first. Nearly half of puppies bought online or in newspaper ads, without being seen first, fall sick.
"Ask how old the puppy is. Puppies shouldn't leave their mother before eight weeks. Anyone selling a puppy under eight weeks is seriously jeopardising the health of that puppy. Puppies also can't be vaccinated before eight weeks, so someone advertising a vaccinated puppy under eight weeks old is a red flag.
"Never buy from a pet shop. Approximately 1.5 million dogs were sold via pet shops in 2014. These dogs were most likely bred by puppy farmers.
"If you think you are dealing with a puppy farm, walk away. It might be difficult to walk away from a puppy in need but the first step to stopping puppy farming is by not funding them. Report the farm to your local authority, the RSPCA, or even call the police if you witness cruelty or abuse."
Lisa Richards, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA, said: “The awful conditions that puppies from unscrupulous breeders and dealers experience, can lead to both serious health conditions and long-term behavioural problems. So the puppy you thought would make a great family pet could go on to be seriously ill or afraid of new experiences, people or other animals, and could go on to behave aggressively later on in life.
“If there are any warning signs, if the breeder or dealer is evasive or if you’re unsure always walk away. It might feel like you’re rescuing the puppy, but sadly you’re just making space for another one. So walk away and report it to the RSCPA and the local authority.”
For more information on puppy farming visit www.gocompare.com/puppy-farming