A DOG breeder has hit back at critics saying licensed businesses like his help keep the industry 'regulated'.

Animal rights campaigners have been protesting outside Douglas Hall Farm Kennel in Newchurch over concerns about where puppies being sold at the site have come from and fears some animals have become ill.

Eric Lancaster, the owner of the Spenbrook Road kennel, said he and his staff 'keep the puppies under constant supervision' and fully comply with the law dealing with one UK licensed breeder.

But campaigners said there is 'no transparency' around where the large quantities of puppies come from.

Louise Brown, the founder of Lancashire Against Puppy Farming, said: "It is the second time our group has demonstrated outside Douglas Hall Farm Kennel.

"Douglas Hall will not tell the customers where the dogs are coming from.

"When they say ‘UK licensed breeder’ they actually mean large scale commercial breeders, which are often referred to as puppy farms. That is what we are trying to stop.

"We believe it is obscene and there should not be a place for this in Lancashire.

"If people able to make connection between where the dog comes from and what they are buying we are sure they would not want to buy it.

"Douglas Hall should come under more scrutiny."

But speaking exclusively to the Lancashire Telegraph, Mr Lancaster, said he also breeds puppies on site.

He said: "There is a demand for puppies.

"You can choose to buy them from places like this, which are licensed and regulated.

"We openly admit that we source our puppies from one UK licensed breeder, which you cannot do unless you are licensed.

"The exact reason we do not tell our customers where our puppies are sourced from is because there are people who do not agree with what we are doing.

"We keep the puppies under constant supervision and look after them well.

"If licensed places likes this are shut down the industry will be driven underground.

"If people like ourselves go out of business unlicensed places will take our place and then there will be no traceability or accountability for the pet's welfare."

Animal lover and protestor Joanne Place said she has suffered 16 months of heartbreak after buying a ill puppy from the farm.

The 50-year-old, of Bank Side Close, Loveclough, said: "Last year my husband brought home a puppy called him Archie and I loved him.

"However by the second week I noticed some strange behaviour.

"Archie was very agitated walking around the outside of the room hiding his head under furniture and appeared to be blind.

"For the next 16 months it was a roller coaster of emergency visits to our vet and the emergency pet hospital.

"We thought we would lose him.

"He had major surgery for an inherited liver condition, congenital portystemic liver shunt, which cost us £9,813, we were told his liver was now re-growing and we were so happy to have our dog well for the first time.

"What we have been through as a family has been heartbreaking and I wouldn't want anyone to go through what we have had to."

Mr Lancaster said he gave Mrs Place a full refund.

He said: "Joanne's dog had a liver stunt. It is not genetic and not from breeding. It's nature.

"One from 1,000 puppies have liver stunt. It's not common.

"We did not sell Joanne the dog knowing it was ill because that would be crazy as a business.

"We breed some puppies ourselves but most of them are sourced from one UK licensed breeder.

"My main argument here is that there is a demand for the types of puppies we sell.

"They are not available in any rescue centre in the area."

Environmental Health bosses, who inspect the site every 12 months, said they were aware of the campaigners concerns but the farm had 'satisfactorily passed' recent inspections.

Philip Mousdale, the council's corporate director, said: “We’re aware of concerns about puppy breeding at Douglas Hall Farm, Newchurch and we have had some complaints in the past relating to the health of puppies bought from there.

"Our environmental health team carried out an annual inspection last December which the breeding business passed satisfactorily.

"Council officers made a further visit last month which did not raise any concerns.

"We understand that the business works closely with a veterinary practice which makes regular visits and they have not raised any issues with us.

"We’re not investigating the premises at present but will carry out our annual inspection again in December.

"The owner of the business has submitted a planning application to us which relates to providing better facilities for dogs.

“This came to us in August and is likely to be considered in the near future at our Barrowford and Western Parishes Committee which deals with planning applications in that area of Pendle.”