A SOMERSET dog breeder has been hit with a £114,000 bill after being caught selling puppies on the black market.

The fraudster was tracked down by a HM Revenue and Customs taskforce specifically tackling dishonest canine breeders.

The taskforce was set up in October 2015 after discussions with animal welfare groups suggested tens of thousands of pups were being reared in unregulated conditions and sold illicitly every year.

Officers uncovered crooks, including the one in Somerset, selling puppies on a mass scale and for a huge profit.

But because of the underground nature of the activity they were failing to declare their sales and avoiding paying tax.

HMRC has now recovered £5,393,035 in lost taxes from 257 separate cases since the formation of the taskforce.

Financial secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said: "It is utterly appalling that anyone would want to treat puppies in such an inhumane way and on such a scale.

"It’s also deeply unfair to all of the legitimate businesses who do pay the right tax, and the total recovered by the taskforce is equivalent to the annual salaries for more than 200 newly qualified teachers.

"We continue to work hard with other government agencies and our partners to tackle these traders. We urge anyone with information about tax evasion to report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800-788887."