Instances of rip-off merchants illegally selling puppies in Bexley have sky-rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, the local authority has warned.

Unscrupulous and unlicensed breeders are using Covid-19 as an excuse not to meet people in their homes, but to instead arrange sales with buyers in car parks or other public places, according to Bexley Council.

The authority said some of the puppies sold in this way have turned out to be “very sick”, leading to costly vets’ bills for the new owners.

One puppy was later revealed to not even be the same breed it was advertised as, the council said.

Attempts to return the puppies or obtain a refund have been difficult or impossible.

The warning comes as Bexley Council revealed the current pandemic has seen a spike in the number of calls to Bexley Trading Standards about unlicensed breeders.

It’s prompted the trading standards team to advise potential puppy buyers in the borough to check they’re purchasing from sellers with the appropriate permit.

According to the council, there is currently only one licensed dog breeder in the borough – who is licensed to only breed miniature Schnauzers.

Trading standards have also written to a number of possible breeders explaining the requirements and asked them to contact the council to discuss the application process should they require a licence.

Where an application is not made, further investigations will be made, the council warned.

The council advised that any viewing of puppies can be done remotely during the pandemic.

The news comes after the RSPCA issued a warning to those considering purchasing a pet to keep them company during the lockdown.

“You may have lots of time now but what about when everything goes back to normal?” Dr Samantha Gaines, the RSPCA’s dog welfare expert, said last week.

“It’s important to think about your previous lifestyle and whether you would have been able to get a puppy at that point.”

For more advice on purchasing a puppy during the Covid-19 lockdown, visit The Kennel Club website.

Anyone with concerns about puppies being sold in Bexley can contact

Breeders looking to apply for a licence can email