#TheList John Benjamin Cook, born 13/11/1993, and his brother William Cook, born 11/07/1989, both of Little Acres, Longfield Avenue, New Barn, Longfield, Dartford DA3 7LA – ran a puppy farm and a cock-fighting ring
Gypsy travellers John and William Cook were convicted of a number of animal welfare offences.
In July 2018 RSPCA officers executed a warrant at the sprawling property in New Barn the brothers share with their extended family, including wives, children and parents, after a member of the public who had bought puppies from them raised concerns.
In total, 18 dogs, including spaniels and beagles were removed along with two cockerels.
Officers also seized a number of mobile phones from the site and a suspecting cock-fighting pit was uncovered. Analysis of the mobiles showed the brothers were involved with fighting and later forensics tests found the blood of at least four cockerels on the pit.
During the four-day trial the court heard how John Cook was accused of causing suffering to a number of dogs, failing to provide them with vet care for stomach and teeth problems and keeping them in unsuitable conditions.
William Cook was accused of a number of offences relating to cockerel fighting.
John Cook pleaded guilty to the offences, while William Cook was convicted of the offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport, from the charity’s special operations unit, said: “Many of the dogs being kept at the site had health and welfare problems, including untreated gastrointestinal and dental issues.
“We also had serious concerns over the conditions they were being kept in. The dogs and puppies were being kept in dirty, wet conditions with no bedding.”
Sentencing: William Cook – 120-day prison term – suspended for two years. Ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. Disqualified from keeping any animals for three years.
John Cook – 90 days in prison – also suspended for two years; 160 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from keeping dogs for three years.
Both men were ordered to pay £1,000 in costs plus a £115 victim surcharge.
#TheList Daniel Brockhill, born 21/02/1968, of 16 Robin Crescent, Heysham LA3 2WG – for cruelty to two ponies
Brockhill, a Romany gypsy and alleged backyard breeder of diseased Staffordshire bull terriers, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to two ponies
The first animal, a dark brown cob mare, was left with a ‘stinking open wound’ caused by the tight bridle rubbing her, as well as a small cut to her nose, and areas of fur missing on the face.
The second animal, a black and white piebald cob mare, was spotted wandering in the field “aimlessly” in a dull and depressed state.
The weak and malnourished pony was not very responsive and had an elevated heartbeat and temperature. She was riddled with lice and eggs that had been present for at least 10 days, and had fecal staining on her hind legs indicating serious diarrhea.
The court was told Brockhill had only bought this pony three weeks earlier.
Prosecuting, Paul Ridehalgh told the court that a worker from World Horse Welfare had attended a field in the Twemlow Parade area of Heysham where 13 horses were kept. Most were in good body condition, but one had a bridle that was “clearly too tight” around her nose.
Mr Ridehalgh described how the worker went to loosen the bridle and discovered “a red raw open wound” under the pony’s chin. The collar had become embedded within the hair and skin and a bad smell was emanating from the wound.
The charity worker alerted the RSPCA, and when another inspector attended they became concerned about the other horse who looked too thin.
Mr Ridehalgh added: “It was displaying extremely worrying behaviour and clearly was extremely unwell.
A veterinary surgeon who examined the animals concluded both had been caused suffering by Brockhill’s failure to act.
Despite her painful injury, the first horse was bright, alert and responsive But the second was scored just one out of five on her body condition – zero being emaciated.
Brockhill agreed to sign over both horses to the RSPCA.
The thin horse gained 8kg in the four weeks she boarded with the charity
During an interview, Brockhill admitted he owned both ponies but claimed he had only owned the malnourished one for three weeks.
He said he had when he arranged transport to a field in Skipton the horse was weak and could barely walk, and that he was “appalled” by her condition.
When it was pointed out that she should have been referred to a vet, Brockhill said he was experienced in keeping horses and it was his opinion the horse just needed a ‘good feed’.
The court heard Brockhill had a conviction for animal cruelty from 2002, but of dissimilar nature.
District Judge Paul Clarke said there had been a “high level of suffering”, but recognised Brockhill had co-operated with the RSPCA.
He remarked it wasn’t “deliberate cruelty”, adding: “It comes down to competence and horse husbandry.”
Sentencing: curfew; a total of £690 costs and charges. No ban.
#TheList Sean Ronald Burns, born 15/08/1970, of Rosehill Lodge, Ferry Lane, Pembroke SA71 4RG, Kenneth Darren Evans, born 09/10/1975, of 28 Llys Caermedi, Carmarthen SA31 1GX, and John A Clayton (dob tbc) of 17 Rhos Las, Carmarthen SA31 2DY – convicted on charges relating to cruelty to animals at Bramble Hall Farm in Pembroke Dock and operation of an illegal slaughterhouse
Sean Burns was convicted of multiple cruelty charges in relation to 215 animals at Bramble Hall Farm, Ferry Lane, Pembroke Dock SA71 4RG.
The charges included the unlicensed breeding of dogs, welfare and animal-keeping regulation charges relating to sheep, horses, dogs, pigs, and goats.
A total of 53 pigs, 80 sheep, three goats, 58 dogs, 20 horses and one donkey were removed from the smallholding after being found living in squalor and without adequate space, food or water.
District Judge Christopher James told Burns he had “deliberately” inflicted suffering over a “significant period of time”.
He told Burns the condition of the animals was “extremely poor”, and that some dogs and puppies had “died due to the neglect suffered at your hands”.
One horse was found with a pipe stuck in its hoof and two horses were found with no access to food or water.
They also found 10 newborn puppies in a plastic food bowl, two of which were dead.
Prosecutor Alexander Greenwood said the dogs were kept in a “hazardous environment”, with no bedding, and the floor wet with urine and faeces.
The court was told the animals displayed signs of “bullying behaviour” as food was so scarce and the bigger animals were keeping the smaller animals away from food.
The prosecution said this case of animal neglect was “one of the worst examples of its kind.”
The court heard Burns failed to provide documentation for any of the animals.
Defending, Aled Owen told the court Burns “has not got the skills to manage this farm efficiently”.
“Quite frankly, my client is illiterate,” he said.
The prosecution followed an investigation by public protection officers from Pembrokeshire Council, supported by Dyfed-Powys Police’s rural crime team.
Sean Burns’ mother Pamela Burns (born 12/08/1945) had faced 24 charges but the case against her ultimately did not proceed because she is said to be suffering from dementia.
Sean Burns was also convicted alongside associates John Clayton and Kenneth Evans on a string of charges relating to food hygiene, operating an illegal slaughterhouse and being involved in the illegal slaughter of sheep to produce ‘smokies’ – a West African delicacy where meat is cooked using a blow torch.
The illegal slaughterhouse operated in one of the agricultural outbuildings, with Clayton and Evans caught in the act by horrified inspectors.
The unit had been set up as a makeshift slaughter hall with six slaughtered sheep at various stages of preparation and further penned sheep awaiting the same fate.
The court was told that conditions in the slaughter hall were insanitary and the floor awash with blood from the slaughtered animals as well as by-products from the slaughter process.
A herd of pigs was seen wandering among suspended sheep carcasses, feeding on the remains of the slaughtered animals.
Approximately six further carcasses of smoked sheep were found bagged in the boot of Evans’ car, ready for onward supply.
Evidence was gathered by officers and the carcasses were seized for condemnation.
A number of sheep were subsequently euthanized for humane reasons and restrictions were placed on the herd of pigs, preventing their movement off-site to address the potential disease risk and to protect the human food chain.
Clayton was convicted in 2002 for the same offence alongside David Jones of Moelfre Farm in Llanwnnen, John Beddows of Tregaron, Ceredigion, Trefor Williams of Llandysul, Ceredigion, Alun Evans and his brother Richard Evans both of Abernewrig, Lampeter, Malcolm Taylor of Oldbury, in the West Midlands, and Alun Lloyd of Llanfrynach, Pembrokeshire
Sentencing for these offences is to follow.
Magistrates in Court in Llanelli formalised that order for the removal of the animals owned by Pamela and Sean Burns of Bramble Hall.
Sentencing: Sean Burns was given 20 weeks in prison for illegal dog breeding, animal welfare charges and other summary matters. Although Pembrokeshire Council have incurred thousands of pounds in costs, Burns was only ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge at this stage. He was handed an indefinite ban from keeping animals, including having any involvement or influence over the care or welfare of animals.
#TheList puppy farmers Lucinda S Rolph, born 14/06/1966 and daughter Victoria J Rolph, born 22/03/1989, both of Woodward Farm, Alma Lane, Upham, near Southampton SO32 1HE
Lucinda Rolph has been ordered to pay £600,000 through a court confiscation order after pleading guilty to running an unlicensed dog breeding farm. Her daughter Victoria Rolph also pleaded guilty to same offence, with a lesser role, and has been ordered to pay almost £15,000.
Licensing officers from the local authority caught wind of the pair’s operation in May 2015 and carried out a warrant at their £600,000 farm in the village of Upham, near Southampton. There they found litters of puppies as well as adult dogs.
Despite being warned that they needed a licence for commercial breeding, the Rolphs continued to advertise dogs and puppies for sale, sometimes under different names, without one.
The pair came to the attention of licensing officers again after a miniature Dachshund they sold died weeks later of canine parvovirus.
Prosecutor Ethu Crorie told the court how the pair would advertise puppies and adult dogs for sale online via Pets4Homes and Preloved. They advertised 38 different breeds, with prices ranging from £500 to £1,500 per animal.
Mr Crorie added there was no record of sales or receipts and the pair did not have any tax records.
The pair had several accounts in their own names and 18 with other people’s names – some of whom they knew and were unaware that their name was being used.
Mr Crorie said that if every dog had sold as advertised and none of the adverts were duplicated, the pair could have been paid as much as £1.5 million pounds.
In sentencing the pair, Judge Henry, inset, said: “Lucinda Rolph was warned of the need for having a licence in 2015.
“She said at that stage she was thinking about giving everything up.
“She was well aware a licence was required.
“She kept no records of this lucrative business and they used fake names to hide the fact they were still selling adult and puppies during this period.”
Sentencing: Lucinda Rolph was ordered to pay £601,700 within a three-month period or face a five-year prison sentence in default. She was also told to pay costs of £20,000 and to complete 60 hours of unpaid work.
Victoria Rolph was ordered to pay £14,950 within a three-month period or face six months in prison in default. She was also told to complete 60 hours of unpaid work.
Both Rolphs were also given a dog breeding banning order for six years.
#TheList unscrupulous puppy dealer Carol Louise Willis, born 10/07/1970, currently of Kings Court, Ayr KA8 0AD – kept ‘production line’ puppies in stacked cages at her squalid Barrhill farmhouse; sold diseased and genetically damaged dogs online to unsuspecting buyers
Willis then tried to persuade Lisa Lochhead to sell on pups for her, making them look like they came from a loving family home – a favourite tactic of puppy farmers to mask the fact that they are churning out pups from a production line.
Lisa fell in love with the poorly pup, Buddy, after seeing an advert online and felt she had to rescue him from hellish living conditions. She was so desperate to save him that she borrowed cash to pay for him.
But Buddy was so over-run with mites that all his fur had fallen off. A vet confirmed he was suffering from demodectic mange as well as giardia, an intestinal problem associated with dirty, cramped conditions. This made his stool bloody and full of worms.
Buddy later lost his second eye after it burst in front of Lisa’s horrified children.
Lisa managed to talk the price down from £550 to £100 after Willis asked her to sell on dogs from her house.
Lisa has since spent hundreds of pounds on vet bills. She has also been contacted by the buyer of Buddy’s sister, who also suffered from dire skin problems.
Lisa said: “I would say that the moment I saw Buddy, I felt I had to save him from this woman. He is such a loveable wee character and the fact he lost an eye hasn’t stopped him have a big personality.
“Carol Willis told me that Buddy lost an eye after being attacked by a French bulldog she was selling, then almost lost the other eye after being scratched by his sister.
“That’s what happens when all these dogs are bred in cramped conditions. She shouldn’t be doing it.”
Lisa had hoped to see the pup with his mother before taking him but Willis repeatedly insisted on meeting at Asda car park in Girvan, Ayrshire, where she turned up with a van full of dogs in cages.
She said: “She didn’t want me anywhere near her home. I couldn’t believe that she was wanting £550 for a dog in that shape but I was determined to rescue him. Willis was really keen for me to take dogs from her and sell them as though I had bred them from my home.
“When she found out I was from Cairnryan, she started asking if I knew anyone who did ferry trips to Ireland, so I presumed she was thinking about bringing in pups that way too.”
A few days after the SIU’s raid, Willis offered to sell a Daily Record reporter a pug pup for £850, claiming she could get the dog microchipped the same day.
Willis denied her dogs were being kept in poor conditions. and told the reporter: “The SSPCA said there were too many dogs, they didn’t say they were being badly looked after.”
Willis has since moved from Lochend Farm in Barrhill, Girvan, to a flat near the Wallacetown area of Ayr
While the Daily Record said that their expose had made it impossible for Willis to continue trading, we have been sent screenshots of two recent Gumtree adverts that are believed to have been placed by Willis:
Sadly, the public have short memories and we have also heard that Willis does not operate alone. She almost certainly has a network of people around her that will allow her to continue to ply her barbaric trade.
#TheList puppy farmers Sansha Niomi Lamb, born 08/05/1980, of 1 Draycott Place, Dronfield Woodhouse, Dronfield S18 8RY, and her father Peter Lamb, born 26/10/1949, of 72 Ashford Road, Dronfield Woodhouse, Dronfield S18 8RT
Sansha Lamb admitted 12 offences and her father Peter Lamb admitted 11 offences relating to the dogs at Unstone House, on Whittington Lane, at Unstone, near Dronfield S18 4DQ.
Prosecuting solicitor Deborah Cartwright said the puppy farm was raided by animal health officers from NE Derbyshire District Council on January 9, 2019, with RSPCA officers and a vet after complaints had been received about concerns for the animals and officers had visited the site.
District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: “It’s frankly – in the 30 years I have been involved in criminal law – one of the worst cases I have come across in terms of systematic neglect, selfish behaviour and the abuse of animals for commercial gain.
“It is clear to me that the problems in the period of January 2 to 9 covered by the charges were not isolated to that period of time.
“It’s also clear to me that Miss Lamb and to a lesser extent Peter Lamb should not have had anything to do with the breeding or keeping of animals.”
He added: “The fact that what was revealed on January 9 when the council, a vet and others went into the premises of Unstone House was frankly a horror story.”
Ms Cartwright, prosecuting for the council, added that officers found kennel floors and walls covered in excrement and a yard was filthy with faecal contamination and dogs were found with faeces matted into their fur. She told the court the final kennel in one block had the worst conditions.
Ms Cartwright said: “The final one represents the worst conditions and consisted of an enclosed room with doors and windows shut with no ventilation and the heating was left on and as officers entered they were hit by an overwhelming smell of ammonia along with dog faeces covering the whole floor.
“The concentration was such it made the vet gag and it made her eyes burn and she was unable to remain in the room at all until the windows and the doors were open for minutes.”
Ms Cartwright added: “One of the officers was observed outside the room retching badly and he was unable to go in. The dogs inside that room would have experienced the same reaction to the ammonia.” Investigators also found a whelping box in the house, where both defendants lived at the time, with a pug bitch and two puppies and their pen was covered in faeces and there was no food or water, according to Ms Cartwright.
She added that a further deformed dog approached officers in the hall which was covered in faeces and stank of ammonia.
Ms Cartwright said that officers also found a decomposing pug-type bitch in a dog basket covered in newspaper which had been dead for some time.
Officers discovered 25 mistreated dogs including the deceased pug, German Shepherds, a Dalmatian, Bulldogs, pugs, a Cockapoo, a Cocker Spaniels and puppies.
Many were emaciated or lean, according to Ms Cartwright, covered in faeces and urine, riddled with lice, skin lesions, infections and parasites and some were lame and injured and traumatised by their mistreatment.
Ms Cartwright said Sansha Lamb had been the holder of a licence to breed puppies and she had ignored warnings after visits to the site and she was sent a letter stating her licence had expired.
She told investigators she had mental health issues and she was not aware of the suffering or conditions the animals were experiencing.
Peter Lamb admitted responsibility for the care of the animals.
Ms Cartwright said: “Miss Lamb ignored previous advice and warnings regarding the treatment of the animals and she allowed a person with insufficient experience or training to have care of the animals.”
Sansha Lamb and Peter Lamb both pleaded guilty to nine counts of failing to ensure the welfare needs of dogs and to a further two counts each of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs between January 2 and January 9, 2019.
Sansha Lamb also pleaded guilty to breeding dogs without a licence between July, 2018, and January, 2019.
Defence solicitor David Gittins mother-of-seven Sansha Lamb is of previous good character and has been a dog breeder for several years without any previous problems but she had suffered from the breakdown of a difficult relationship and she started using cocaine.
He added that while she had recently been pregnant she struggled with her mental health and she had asked others to assist with the dogs.
Defence solicitor Martin Pizzey said retired parks authority worker Peter Lamb had no commercial interest and he became involved as problems emerged and he was trying to help his daughter.
Sentencing: Sansha Lamb was given 16 weeks of custody suspended for two years with a 16-week curfew. She was ordered to pay £1,000 costs and a £115 victim surcharge. Peter Lamb was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a 12-week curfew and Rehabilitation Activity Requirement. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
Sansha Lamb was also banned from keeping animals for life and Peter Lamb was banned from keeping dogs for five years.
The puppies, which have since been rehomed, showed signs of worms and had fur matted with excrement and burns on their skin, magistrates were told.
The court was told Rushmer’s late husband Michael had started a puppy farm to clear debts and later involved his daughter Zoe Rushmer, her partner Jacob Murphy and later his son, also called Michael Rushmer.
She admitted having provided premises for the puppy farm in Thurlton, though her lawyer said she had been coerced into it and was subjected to violence.
RSPCA inspector Amy Pellegrini, who worked on the case for four years, said some puppies were “emaciated”.
The RSPCA removed 74 dogs including several pregnant bitches, one of whom had 93 puppies.
“Being that age, they were very lucky to be alive in those conditions,” she said, speaking outside court.
“That’s not something that we see every day. To see something like that is very upsetting.”
Jacob Murphy, Michael Rushmer and Zoe Rushmer were sentenced in June 2019 for having sold ill or dying dogs they pretended had come from a family environment.
They kept some of the 74 animals in cages, dark sheds and a caravan in temperatures up to 30C (86F), Norwich Crown Court was told.
Murphy and Michael Rushmer were each jailed for 42 months, while Zoe Rushmer was given a two-year suspended jail sentence. They were all banned from keeping animals for life.
Sentencing: 14-week curfew; banned from buying or selling dogs for two years.
#TheList puppy farmer Mark Burgess, born 22/05/1980, of Paddock View, Brenzett, Romney Marsh TN29 0BE – for multiple animal welfare offences.
A raid on a pet farm – during which inspectors found a puppy frozen in a freezer – led to a conviction for traveller Mark Burgess on eight animal welfare offences.
RSPCA inspectors descended on the Old Ashford Road in Brenzett, near Ashford, following complaints by four members of the public.
The complainants had purchased puppies from Burgess between December 2017 and February 2018, with all of the animals quickly falling ill and dying.
Footage captured during the early morning raid showed soaked bedding, shelters with bare, rotten floorboards and dogs chained to kennels.
In the bodycam video a range of concerns were highlighted, including a cat that was found shivering in a turned-off freezer.
RSPCA inspectors noted incidents of skin disease, claws growing into toepads and cat flu amongst the animals on the farm.
Among the more shocking discoveries caught on camera was the charred corpse of a small animal discovered in a “burner drum”.
Lead RSPCA Inspector Carroll Lamport said: “We found a mix of different breeds at the site including beagles, Dalmatians, spaniels and dachshund crosses.
“Some were pregnant, others had litters of tiny puppies while some had clear signs that they’d been used for breeding previously.
“Some of the dogs were extremely frightened and shut down. Some were living in almost complete darkness and others were huddled at the back of their runs.
“One beagle was sitting uncomfortably in a filthy, wet kennel. She looked so depressed.
“When we searched a freezer on-site we made a horrifying discovery; a small, four-week-old puppy.
“The body was frozen rigid and dumped in the bottom of a blood-soaked freezer.”
In total, 20 dogs were found living in unsuitable conditions and were seized by police and placed into RSPCA care – 12 adults and eight puppies.
Two cats and three kittens suffering from cat flu were also seized and later signed over.
An elderly German Shepherd – which it’s believed was Burgess’ personal pet – was showing signs of skin disease, muscle wastage and weak back legs after being found living outside, tethered to an old wooden kennel.
The German Shepherd was put to sleep but the remaining dogs were all signed over into RSPCA care and rehomed.
Eight infringements of the Animal Welfare Act were levelled at the 39-year-old, including causing unnecessary suffering to puppies by failing to investigate and address the cause of the animal’s ill health and by selling the animal in an unfit state.
Other convictions include failing to provide veterinary care in respect of a beagle’s eye condition and failing to provide a number of dogs with a suitable environment and diet.
At the sentencing hearing, Burgess’s lawyer Gordon Crow read a letter written by his client.
It said: “You’ve found me guilty of selling three puppies that I should have realised were ill and should’ve taken to the vet.
“I accept your decision and I apologise to all concerned.
“I’ve been brought up around animals and love being around them more than people.
“Since being found guilty it’s been a nightmare.
“I’ve even been shunned by my own traveller community.
“It’s my animals that have given me strength recently.
“I’ve always said I’ll pay the money back to the buyers and I’m sorry for what they’ve gone through.”
District Judge Justin Barron told Burgess: “I found your behaviour negligent in the sense that you sold these puppies and should have further investigated the cause of their illness, identified that illness and not going on to sell them.
“The animals should not have been sold in the condition that they were in.”
He said Mr Burgess’s “standards fell short”.
The RSPCA had requested Burgess should be banned from keeping dogs.
The judge responded: “From the latest evidence I have seen the dogs you are now keeping are well cared for and I do not see there is a need to ban you from keeping dogs.”
The judge described a press release issued after Burgess’s conviction at Canterbury Crown Court in August as being an “emotional statement not appropriately balanced”.
“It led to the impression he had been found guilty of deliberately and gratuitously causing suffering to animals which wasn’t my finding.”
He said the case had led him to consider “whether the RSPCA should continue to conduct its own prosecution”.
Sentencing: two-year community order, 30 days probation, a six-month curfew and a ban on the selling of dogs for two years.
#TheList illegal dog breeder and trader Kevin Bramwell, born 21/02/1957, of John Street, Cannock WS12 2RL
Kevin Bramwell, who gave his address in court as Leathermill Road, Rugeley but actually lives in John Street, Cannock, with his partner, admitted 11 charges – eight of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, one running a breeding establishment without licence, one of having an unlicensed pet shop and one of fraud by false representation
Officers from Cannock Chase Council found 27 dogs and two raccoons inside vehicles and sheds at the premises of KV Plant & Machinery on Power Station Road, Rugeley, Staffordshire, which is operated by Bramwell.
They say the animals were overcrowded, surrounded by faeces and flies, and showing signs of disease.
A local vet was engaged to assess them, and they were taken into the Council’s possession.
The authority cared for the animals, some of which required treatment, whilst the Dogs Trust volunteered to find permanent homes for them.
The subsequent investigation showed that Bramwell was breeding dogs and selling them through several websites.
Adverts were traced back to 2014 and totalled almost £50,000.
By not having the required licences Bramwell was able to operate under the radar.
The Council say Bramwell preyed on unsuspecting members of the public who were unwittingly buying from this illegal puppy farm, in the mistaken belief that he was a legitimate vendor.
Councillor John Preece, Environment Portfolio Leader said “To anyone looking to have a puppy, please consider rehoming a rescue dog from one of the recognised charities that specialise in caring for stray or abandoned dogs.
“If you do decide to buy privately or from a breeder, please make reasonable enquiries about the vendor, ensure you see the mother and puppies together at the place where they were born and raised.
“Check for proof of vaccinations, microchipping and worming.
“If it’s a breeder, check they have the appropriate licence from the Council for breeding dogs or selling pets.
”The best outcome from this case is that the 29 animals were successfully rehomed.
“I must thank the Dogs Trust for their support in achieving this.
“To anyone considering operating an illegal puppy farm within the District, this case shows you will be found and you will be prosecuted as demonstrated today.”
Sentencing: 18-week prison sentence for animal welfare and licensing offences and a further 52 weeks for fraud. A minimum 35 weeks of the sentence to be served in custody with the remainder on licence. Disqualified from keeping any animal for 10 years with no review for five years.
#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.