'Don't fuel the puppy farm industry - adopt a rescue pet instead'.

That's the message the RSPCA is sending out to residents at it reveals reports of puppy farms in Dorset almost quadrupled within the space of a decade.

Families thinking of getting a puppy during the summer holidays are being urged to adopt a rescue pet rather than buying a dog, as figures reveal unethical puppy farms continue to be a growing problem across the country.

In 2008, the RSPCA received 17 reports of puppy farms in Dorset. However in 2018, the number of reports soared to 62, a 265 per cent increase.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: "It is distressing that we are still seeing so many reports about puppy farms but part of this increase is probably due to people being more savvy about what to look out for when getting a pet.

"We know there’s a spike in people searching for puppies and buying dogs at the beginning of the school holidays but we’d urge families to carefully consider whether getting a dog is right for them. Dogs are a huge commitment and need lots of time and attention, even once summer is over and the kids are back at school.

"If you do have the time and money for a dog then we’d urge you to consider rescuing instead of buying a puppy. Not only will this give a rescue dog a chance at finding his forever home but it’ll also save any potential heartache caused by unwittingly buying a dog from a puppy farm."

The warning comes as data reveals that last year was the worst yet for complaints about the puppy trade in England to the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency hotline, with the charity receiving 4,357 complaints overall.

There has been a year-on-year increase in these reports over the past decade as more and more unscrupulous breeders and dealers seek to cash in on a growing puppy market - where dogs of certain breeds can sell for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Lisa added: "After the RSPCA campaigned for years, the government last year finally introduced tougher licensing regulations around the selling of animals - including breeding and selling dogs - which we hope will help crackdown on this multi-million pound industry.

"The government has also committed to a ban on the third-party sales of puppies and kittens which, alongside tougher licensing conditions will also help to tackle puppy farms and dodgy dealers. However, we also need to educate the public to ensure that they only buy puppies from responsible breeders who prioritise the health and welfare of their dogs over profit."