Prosecuting puppy farmers and other animal abusers is something we assist with whenever we can. Evidence gained by us and provided to the RSPCA has resulted in the closure of several breeding facilities over the years. These closures and prosecutions is what the public want to happen more often than it does. And when we see floods of images on TV and social media of the neglect and abuse many breeding dogs experience, it’s tough to understand how prosecutions are not more numerous and breeding facilities not immediately shut down. It can be hard grasping the full processes required to bring prosecutions, or the difficult steps that must be taken for them to succeed.
We’ve gone through this many times over the years and it can be an arduous, frustratingly long time from when we first witness the suffering inside the breeding places and gather the evidence, to the successful end where dogs are rescued and bad breeders put out of business. But it does happen and we’re always willing to do what we can to help close down more.
Much of our work involves gaining evidence before the animal abusers running these hell-holes get a chance to tidy-up ahead of visits from the authorities. If they have warning, they can sometimes do just enough which gets the authorities off their backs, leaving them to return to their cruel practices once the attention is off.
The first-hand evidence which we gather is always awful, harrowing and is often the only means by which prosecuting puppy farmers is possible. Because, and this surprises many, the RSPCA (or SSPCA if it’s a Scottish investigation) have no right of entry and can only gain a warrant to do so where there’s sufficient, concrete evidence that satisfies a Judge to issue one. This is where our early evidence over the years has proven critical, as we hand over what we find to the RSPCA, or SSPCA, make statements and wait for the legal process to unfold.
A recent case involving a known and convicted animal abuser which eventually resulted in him receiving a 7-month jail term and 5 year ban on keeping animals illustrates how we work to close these businesses down. The details are upsetting, the sights, smells and sounds of what we experienced when visiting that puppy farm haunts us.
We received a complaint about this man to our phone line and in October 2015 visited his property. We already knew about him selling sick pups and knew he‘d previously been prosecuted, and convicted for cruelty to horses. He was under a ban from keeping horses but not other animals. He’s well known in the region and his reputation went before him. We knew we’d be at some risk and it was with trepidation we went to his property.
We had to paddle through all kinds of muck and debris to get the evidence required. We didn’t see all the dogs but we saw enough for what we needed.
We handed our evidence and report to the RSPCA and they continued the process and brought this man to trial.
Following the successful prosecution, RSPCA Officer Gemma Cooper told Dogs Today Magazine what she found:
Within five minutes of my arrival I was covered in head to toe in faeces and urine. I was drenched to the bone. It was unimaginable. The dogs were stinking because they were living in this horrific environment. There were puppies being born in faeces. There were dogs that had untreated ear and teeth problems that needed immediately veterinary treatment and there were six underweight dogs that were all noticeably skinny. There were also a number of sheep and a couple of pigs that had been shoved into a barn. There was no ventilation, no water or food and they were just crammed in.
When we visited his premises, the worst part was having to leave behind the dogs. We knew it would be some time before the authorities could save them. This reality is heartbreaking and something we never fully come to terms with.
It can take months for cases to come to court for many reasons: sometimes the defendants ask for more time, they don’t turn up, or they just delay things as best they can. For us the wait to see the outcome is agonising. We know that usually, animals are continuing to suffer. As well as that, we know that as in other legal areas, when prosecuting puppy farmers and animal abusers there’s never any guarantees that a prosecution will succeed, or even when they do, that adequate sentences will result.
But, at least some cases like this particular one do succeed. And when they do, we take comfort from knowing that there is one less puppy farmer in business thanks to our efforts and that of the RSPCA in bringing the prosecution.