Around 50 puppies bred illegally on an Irish puppy farm in a suspected smuggling plot were destined for the UK, it has emerged.
Two men were arrested for alleged animal cruelty after gardai discovered the pups in boxes in two cars in Dublin. Animal welfare officers said it is believed the dogs were being trafficked to the UK from an illegal farm.
Brian Gillen, Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) chief executive, urged the public to be vigilant when buying a pup.
"Do not buy from the boot of a car or a van, and always arrange to meet the puppy with its parents at the breeders home. The conditions the mother is living in is a good indication of the health and welfare of the animals," said Mr Gillen.
The men were arrested on Tuesday when uniformed gardai searched the vehicles which were stopped in Old Malahide Road in the Coolock area of Dublin. Officers from the DSPCA took the pups into quarantine and safety, after they were discovered in boxes in the back of both vehicles.
The dogs include around 25 Jack Russells, cocker and springer spaniels, and terrier, beagle and Labrador breeds. They were all given a veterinary check-up and placed in secure accommodation.
The animals have a number of conditions such as mange, ear mites, fleas, eye infections and parasitic infections, the DSPCA said. Several of the puppies are now in special care because they were too young when taken away from their mothers. Many of them also had their tails docked and claws removed.
The DSPCA said the discovery is a further reminder of the importance for Ireland to push through legislation making it easier to prevent animal cruelty and to prosecute offenders. Making the microchipping of all dogs compulsory is one of the organisation's biggest goals, a spokesman said.
None of the puppies will be available for new homes until DSPCA inspectors have concluded the animal cruelty investigation.
The two men arrested at the scene are said to be in their 20s and 30s. They were taken to Coolock Garda Station in Dublin and have since been released.