The government has announced plans to tighten welfare standards for dogs imported into the UK amid a surge of puppy smuggling cases.
Importing heavily pregnant dogs and puppies with cropped ears or docked tails will be banned under new guidelines.
The government hope by raising the minimum age of imported puppies from 15 weeks to six months, the newborns will not be separated from their mothers too early which causes sickness and death.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith told the BBC: "Puppy smuggling is a grim trade, and we are determined to clamp down on it.
"Raising the minimum import age for puppies will help protect thousands of animals that are brought into the country each year and stop criminals looking to profit from the rise in demand for pets."
Puppy smuggling and dog theft have been on the rise during the pandemic.
Criminals have been stealing in-demand breeds and looking out for pets which have not been neutered or spayed and are able to breed.
It comes as campaigners warned thieves have been mugging dog walkers in affluent areas and are luring dogs out of gardens with treats.
“Fashion breeds” and designer crossbreeds are in particularly high demand which includes French bulldogs, pugs, cockapoos and labradoodles.
The price of some puppies has risen from £2,000 to £8,000 during the pandemic.
As reliable breeders slowed down their operations, a black market has emerged to fill the gap in demand.
Becky Thwaites, the head of public affairs at Blue Cross, told The Guardian the pandemic had created a “perfect storm” in the market.
“A lot of us are spending more time at home, so demand for puppies has gone up, supply has gone down because responsible breeders are not breeding as much,” she said.
“That lack of supply has led to an increase in criminals getting involved in this industry and an increase in pet theft.”