#TheList Steffan Lee Harris, born 17/12/93, and Barbara Ray Howell, born 21/08/93, of Gorwyn, Tenby Road, St Clears, Carmarthen SA33 4JN – kept dozens of dogs in shocking conditions at illegal puppy farm
Steffan Lee Harris and partner Barbara Ray Howell pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences, running a dog breeding business without a licence, and consumer offences relating to the advertising of dogs online.
Animal inspectors found starving and sick dogs being held in sheds and barns at premises operated by the couple who sold puppies online while pretending to be private sellers.
Paul Hobson, prosecuting, told the court how the couple advertised on a website called, ironically, he said, preloved.co.uk.
One buyer paid £225 for a puppy from a caravan the pair rented at Waun Dwni farm, Tanygroes. The animal became ill before the buyer got back home to Cardiff and they ended up paying £700 in vet’s bills.
Mr Hobson said the puppy had not been microchipped, vaccinated or treated for fleas as the couple had claimed in their advertisement.
A major investigation followed, first by Ceredigion County Council and then by the RSPCA.
Inspectors found 82 dogs being kept in poor conditions – 49 breeding females, 12 males and 21 puppies ready for sale.
Many of the dogs were kept in small enclosures with little light or access to fresh air with poor or muddy bedding and sharp corners and low-hanging electrical cables across the pens.
A lurcher could hardly move, a terrier was tied to a breeze block and a collie had a body score of one out of nine and was close to death.
Another dog was kept in a sealed container and it appeared impossible for anyone to get in to feed or water her, said Mr Hobson.
Inspectors also found pigs squealing through lack of food and water, and chickens that appeared not to have been fed or given access to water. One chicken collapsed in front of them.
The court heard Harris, who was present during the inspection, was “less than cooperative” during the process.
Harris and Howell both admitted cruelty offences in relation to the pigs and Harris to the chickens.
Mr Hobson said further investigation showed that Harris had a flock of 110 sheep on nearby land, which he rented.
The owner became concerned because he did not seem to be there to look after them and inspectors found sheep carcasses that should have been disposed of properly.
After Harris was made aware of their concerns the sheep disappeared, apart from 19 which he seemed to have simply abandoned.
Mr Hobson said an initial financial investigation suggested the couple had banked £150,000 between 2013 and 2018 through the sale of puppies.
A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation is underway to determine how much money could been confiscated from them. That matter will be settled at a court hearing on 15 November, 2019.
After his arrest Harris said he wanted to get the puppy farm up and running before applying for a licence.
Howell said she only looked after the paperwork.
For Harris and Howell James Hartson said he accepted that anyone seeing the photographs of the dogs could not fail to be mortified.
“They had ambitions for a business but lost control. It is likely the financial consequences will be punitive,” he added.
Mr Hartson urged the judge not to impose banning orders preventing the defendants from owning or being concerned in the care of dogs as that would effectively stop Harris from carrying out his work as a herdsman.
Judge Peter Heywood said animals were defenceless and Harris and Howell had housed them in totally inappropriate surroundings.
“This was a significant commercial enterprise and Harris was the driving force,” he added.
“You were in it to make money and had no regard for the welfare of the animals.”
The judge said Harris, who cannot read or write, had been the “driving force” behind the enterprise while Howell had assisted him.
He said he would be failing in his public duty if he suspended Harris’ sentence, but took into account that Howell had a young child when sentencing her.
Sentencing: Harris was jailed for six months (half to be served on licence) while Howell was given a four-month suspended sentence and ordered to complete a rehabilitation activity requirement. Both were made the subject of banning orders preventing them from owning or being concerned in the care of dogs, chickens, and sheep for the next five years.