MORE than 17,000 people have signed a petition calling for a North-East puppy breeder to be closed down.

Ivy Leaf Kennels, in Burnhope, County Durham, has been targeted by on-line campaigners who are concerned about the sale of several puppies which went on to fall ill.

Owner Kevin Knox has strongly denied intentionally selling poorly animals but several pet owners say they bought dogs from Ivy Leaf which needed veterinary care within days of getting them home.

Laura Cramman, from North Shields, bought a labrador puppy called Poppy from the company for her mother Susan last month.

She said the dog was rushed to the vets when it starting suffering from diarrhoea which contained blood.

Two days later the dog died.

Tests showed it was suffering from canine parvovirus, a highly contagious disease passed on through infected faeces.

Miss Cramman said: "I honestly think Ivy Leaf should be shut down."

Deana Field's husband Trevor bought her a cavalier King Charles spaniel called Bailey from Ivy Leaf in May.

Several days after getting the puppy home it became sick with severe diarrhoea.

Tests revealed it was suffering from campylobacteriosis.

It is now recovering, but Mrs Field, 51, from Gateshead, has also claimed the company should have its licence withdrawn.

In response, Mr Knox said Miss Cramman bought Pop�py within two hours of him bringing the pups home from the breeder who supplied him.

He apologised that the puppy was taken ill and said he would now not sell puppies until they have been in his care for seven days.

The breeder said he spoke to Mr Field four days after he sold the spaniel and there was no mention of it being ill.

He added: "On the very rare occasion a pup has taken ill after being sold we do our utmost to amicably resolve the problem."

More than 17,800 people have signed a petition calling on Durham County Council to revoke Ivy Leaf's licence to sell dogs.

The petition was started by campaign group North West Action for Animal after complaints about the company circulated on-line.

Mr Knox said people took offence because he made a living from selling puppies.

He added: "I am also aware that puppies are a very emotive subject - when only one side of a story is told makes the likes of myself sound very bad.

"I would like to point out that anyone visiting our kennels to view or purchase puppies is given total access to all of our kennels so they can see what we have, how clean our kennels are and how we keep and feed our pups."

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: “We take complaints regarding licensed animal welfare establishments very seriously and will investigate the circumstances relating to any allegations which we receive.

“Wherever possible we will take all necessary action against traders who are found to be in breach of the law or in breach of the conditions of their licence.

“However, in order to revoke a licence we must have evidence that the conditions have been breached which must then be put before the courts for a magistrate to decide."