Thirty-one dogs, including several puppies, have been rescued by police in Co Tyrone.
The action came during what police have described as a “proactive operation” in the Coalisland area on Thursday.
Two men were arrested on suspicion of fraud and have since been released on bail, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said.
— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) December 6, 2019
Inspector Joanne Gibson said five properties were searched in relation to suspected fraud offences related to the sale of puppies.
“All of the animals have been seized by PSNI as part of our investigation,” she said.
“Two men aged 43 and 42 years old were arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. Both men have subsequently been bailed pending further enquiries.”
Inspector Gibson also urged the public to be cautious when buying puppies.
She said: “Buying puppies from illegal breeders can have devastating results.
“Often these puppies die a short time after purchase or end up with infectious diseases such as parvovirus which is expensive to treat and often fatal.
“They can also suffer behavioural issues relating to fear and anxiety due to poor or no socialisation. It can be tempting to buy a puppy in these circumstances and often purchasers recognise things are not quite right. It is normal to want to ‘rescue’ a puppy in these circumstances but people must remember they are fuelling and supporting what is a particularly lucrative criminal industry.”
The police officer also made an appeal for further information.
“Our enquiries are continuing and we would appeal to anyone who may have purchased a puppy from the Mid Ulster area over the last six months, to contact police on 101 quoting reference number 915 05/12/19. If any of these animals have tragically passed away, we would ask owners to contact police to assist with our ongoing investigation,” she said.
Anyone who has information on the illegal sale of puppies should contact their local council dog warden.