New dog breeding standards and tougher licensing conditions are being drafted in Carmarthenshire to help regulate the growing industry.
The council is also promoting an approved breeder scheme and wants the public’s help in reporting unlicensed commercial breeding.
A report before the council’s environmental and public protection scrutiny committee said organised crime was involved in the sector nationwide.
Councillors were told at a meeting that dogs from Eastern Europe and Ireland were transported to Carmarthenshire for sale.
Cllr Philip Hughes, executive board member for public protection, said it was an emotive issue which had been flagged up in a recent BBC Wales documentary.
“I think it’s fair to say that as an authority we didn’t come out particularly well in that programme,” he said.
But he said he believed Carmarthenshire was the most proactive authority in dealing with ever-increasing dog licensing issues.
He added: “We are in the process of developing new standards of trading and strengthening licensing conditions, and these will be presented in the next few weeks.”
Carmarthenshire has 85 licensed dog breeders, around 10 of whom have more than 100 dogs.
A further 43 illegal breeders have been identified of late, mainly by monitoring social media and internet selling platforms like eBay.
Successful prosecutions have yielded £275,000 for the authority in the last two years alone through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The council has a regulatory responsibility to license breeders who breed three or more litters in a 12-month period. It also licenses pet shops and dealers, and investigates commercial breeding and pet shop welfare concerns.
Officers give breeders advice – and have refused 23 licences in 2019-20 to date, compared to nine refusals in 2018-19.
The committee was told that the legal process was slow, with court warrants required to enter someone’s property who wasn’t a licensed trader.
An officer said: “We have to be very sure before we go into a private property.
“We do understand there are private dwellings which are being used as breeding establishments, and we are taking active steps.
“But the legal system is not a quick process.”
The officer also said council officials were meeting the Welsh Government shortly to discuss the issues.
Welsh ministers are currently drafting a law which would ban third parties like pet shops or commercial dealers from selling puppies and kittens, unless they bred the animals themselves.
Carmarthenshire Council wants to focus its resources on illegal dog breeding, monitoring the activity online, and raising standards.
The scrutiny report said 18 breeders were eligible for its approved breeder scheme, which would give reassurances to buyers and a reputational boost for sellers.
Cllr Joseph Davies said if every buyer demanded to see a puppy with its mother, illegal breeding would be eradicated.
Cllr Hughes said: “We are trying to encourage breeders to join this ‘buy with confidence’ scheme.
“To get on it is quite a rigid process. You have to have certain checks done.”
He also said it was frustrating when people who knew of illegal breeding didn’t come forward to the authorities.
Cllr Mansel Charles called for an investigative inquiry to be set up on illegal dog breeding, but it was decided that a committee task and finish group would be established instead.
Committee chairman, Cllr John James, said the public had a role to play, and added that many dog breeders were compliant with the regulations.
Cllr Hughes said after the meeting that he didn’t feel the documentary programme had portrayed the authority in a good light, given the work it was doing.