I NEVER really thought of it before but looking at it now, it's obvious – there are hundreds of dogs and puppies going for a lot of money and they are not necessarily registered or neutered."
This was the discovery by Angelina Summers, who was inundated by phone calls after she attempted to reunite a stray dog with its rightful owner.
The 33-year-old had posted a picture and description of the young Staffordshire Bull Terrier her boyfriend had found in a park in Oakwood, Leeds, on an online notice board.
She received more than 20 phone calls in one week from people claiming they could give "Brian" a good home, but Angelina now believes that they wanted to sell the pet on for a profit – or possibly breed him.
After she told one caller that "Brian" was not up for rehoming, the man called back an hour later from another phone number claiming to be the owner.
Angelina recognised his voice and asked him a series of questions about the animal but he could not answer any of them and hung up.
The next day the same man called again for a third number, this time saying that his brother was the dog's owner.
Suspicious Angelina took her concerns online and was horrified to find a flourishing trade in pets.
She said: "Someone who doesn't want a neutered dog can go online and within an hour they have one, ready to breed. Better still, opportunists can take in an animal and sell it on for cash.
"There are no checks. These dogs could be being used by puppy farms, as cash generators or even for fighting."
Consumerwatch spoke to Leanne Plumtree a RSPCA spokeswoman, who said that although private sales were not ideal neither was it illegal to breed animals or sell them.
"Dogs are property, which is why when a dog is stolen it has to be reported to the police," she said.
"It's perfectly legal for people to pass them on by selling them or giving them away.
"That's true when it comes to puppies as well.
"There are lots and lots of people who are breeding puppies, and that does concern us but there is nothing that we can do about it apart from remind people that they really must do their own checks before buying or rehoming privately."
Leanne urged members of the public to get a pet from an animal welfare group such as the RSPCA or Dogs Trust before buying one from a private seller.
It costs between 50 and 150 to get a dog from the RSPCA, which will be neutered and come with a micro-chip and full vaccinations.
More than 1,000 stray dogs were picked up by Leeds dog wardens in 2009/10, as first revealed in the YEP.
Animal-lovers that have taken in a stray dog are advised to:
First check if the dog has a collar with contact details for the owner – a requirement by law;
If not, take the dog to a local vet, dog warden or animal charity to check if the animal is micro-chipped with its owner's contact details;
Failing this, report the lost dog to your local dog warden – they might take him in;
Similarly report the finding to local animal charities such as Dog's Trust, the RSPCA and Ponderosa Rescue Kennels and Cattery;
You could create a poster and put it up at local vet surgeries, in shops and on lamp posts;
If you cannot find the animal's owner then try to find it a good home or a place at an animal shelter such as Ponderosa Rescue in Wakefield on 01977 552303.