Illegal dog breeder prosecuted
A Rhydyfelin woman who continued to run an illegal, unscrupulous dog breeding business from her home, despite a previous prosecution, has been prosecuted again by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
Susan Thomas, 57, is now banned from breeding dogs for five years and has been served an order to reduce the number of dogs she keeps. She must also complete a 12-month supervision order and investigations into her “business” finances, an estimated £10,500, continue.
Thomas faced Cardiff Crown Court on November 16 after pleading guilty to the below four offences at an earlier hearing at the same court:
- Keeping a breeding establishment without a license from the Council, contrary to the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
- Failing to ensure the needs of the dogs were met, an offence under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act
- Engaging in a misleading commercial practice, contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, namely making false statements about her name and address.
- Contravening the same regulations by placing adverts and falsely implying she was not acting as a breeder.
The charges follow a second investigation into Thomas, of Heol Y Bryn, by RCT’s Licensing team in December 2013. Officers were contacted by the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity, which reported concerns regarding Thomas’ breeding, advertising and sale of puppies and the conditions dogs were kept in.
The rescue had been contacted by a man from Bristol who had travelled to Rhydyfelin to view Italian Greyhound puppies being offered for sale online by Thomas, with a view to buying one.
He found three separate litters of puppies in the house and was concerned by the overwhelming smell of urine and mess in the house and the impact it was having on the dogs’ welfare, so he contacted the rescue which, in turn, contacted RCT Council.
At the time of this report, it had been 18 months since Thomas had faced Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court the first time, in May 2012, where she was convicted of failing to register with the Council, a legal requirement for anyone producing four or more litters a year, and for failing to allow the dogs in her care to exhibit their normal behaviour patterns, an offence under the Animal Welfare Act, by keeping them locked in cages for hours at a time. She was fined and given a 12-month conditional discharge on this occasion.
Despite this, she continued to breed and failed to register with the Council. Evidence seized by officers from Heol y Bryn in January 2014, following the latest report, uncovered paperwork, calendars, photos and online adverts proving she had produced at least five litters of puppies since her last court appearance.
One of the dogs found in the house during the search warrant was heavily pregnant, bringing the total number of litters to six, and dated photographs found on her computer suggested at least two more litters were born, but whose births were not registered to avoid raising concerns about over-breeding.
Mating records showed one dog had puppies in May 2014 and was mated again that September. The Breeding and Sale of Dogs Welfare Act 1999, which would have been applicable to Thomas had she met her legal requirement to register, states a bitch cannot be bred again for a minimum of 12 months after she has had a litter. Had Thomas been licensed, this would have been an offence.
Further investigation of the online adverts Thomas was placing to sell the puppies showed she was selling them as Phillip Williams from a Cardiff address. No one of this name or address exists. Thomas was selling the puppies under false details and the online profile she was using stated she was a “member” not a “breeder”. The false name and address was deemed to be an offence under the Fraud Act and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations. The fact she didn’t present herself as a breeder was also deemed an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
All of the information was seized during a search warrant which was executed at Heol Y Bryn by Trading Standards officers, accompanied by vet Karen Davies of the Maesglas Veterinary Group.
When officers arrived they were told there were 12 dogs in the property but their search actually uncovered 26 - three Chihuahuas, 16 adult Italian Greyhounds and seven Italian Greyhound puppies. There were pens, cages and baskets in the kitchen and the back garden.
There was dogs’ mess on the floor, the carpet was wet and littered with dirty puppy pads and there was an overwhelming smell of urine.
Vet Karen Davies completed a report on the dogs’ welfare and concluded they were at risk of sores because of the urine-soaked floor and distress was caused to older dogs due to the number of younger dogs in close proximity. The dogs were also at risk of injuring themselves on the litter they were surrounded by. These conditions were deemed to be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.
Thomas admitted the offences and was placed on a 12-month supervision order and banned from breeding dogs for five years. She has also been placed on a limitation order, which also runs for five years, to reduce the number of dogs she has to four. This means as the dogs she has in her home move on or pass away, she cannot replace them and can only have a maximum of four dogs.
Licensing officers were unable to interview Thomas in any detail about her operation due to the fact she was not well enough to be interviewed.
However, Thomas told the court that she loved her dogs and cared for them, but admitted she may have overstretched herself with the sheer number of animals she had in her home.
She also told the court she had been suffering from poor health and was addressing this, but it had left her overwhelmed by the situation and perhaps not able to deal with it as she should.
Paul Mee, Service Director for Public Health and Protection, said: “The legal requirement for breeders to have a license from the Council is there for good reason. It is so the integrity of the business can be monitored and the welfare of the animals involved maintained.
“Susan Thomas is well aware of this legal requirement as she found herself in front of a court in 2012 for exactly the same reason. Yet she continued to operate as a breeder without securing the license she knew she had to have.
“As a result of this, the business activities taking place at her home were not monitored or regulated, which resulted in over-breeding, poor conditions for the animals and welfare issues.
“It also meant the public were placed at risk as they were being misled about the nature of the business they were buying a puppy from and the name and address of the person making the sale was false, which meant any future issues or recourse would have been impossible.”
Helen Lister, Trustee and Chairman of the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity, said: “The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity will always take seriously any information passed to them regarding the welfare of Italian Greyhounds. It is pleased that these longstanding welfare issues of a particularly sensitive breed have come to an end. It also sends out a signal to any other breeders who think they can ‘puppy farm’ Italian Greyhounds.”