In April this year we were made aware that Leigh Hancock, a dog breeder was operating illegally and keeping and breeding dogs in unsuitable conditions in Hereford.
He was on our radar because of his similarly illegal breeding in Gloucestershire which we’d received multiple complaints about from members of the public. In February we named him on our social media to alert the public…
In cases like this, we will always investigate where we can, but in addition, we know the authorities are the ones which have the resources, power and responsibility to act on behalf of the dogs. Too often, we find ourselves not only acting on behalf of the dogs against operators like Hancock, but also pushing for councils to step up and do what they are obliged by law to do. It can be a hard and lengthy process during which we know the dogs continue to suffer.
In this case, we asked complainants to directly and immediately contact Trading Standards in Gloucestershire and Hereford and put a call out on social media for people affected to do the same.
Our covert visit was during the summer 2018 heatwave. We have seen some sights (ones we wish we could forget but can’t) but this was awful. We saw close-hand a large number of dogs penned in full sun with no shade. Tenperatures were boiling. We were uncomfortable, the poor dogs were in distress. They were housed in overcrowded, dirty pens. Some had little or no water and others had only green slime to relieve their thirst. It was obvious the dogs were suffering and desperate to escape their prison. Some dogs looked to have skin conditions and we also saw puppies on site.
Our hearts were broken. Our resolve stiffened to get the dogs to safety and this illegal breeder to justice.
As Hancock had no license we reported immediately to Hereford Council along with our file of evidence, including this video:
They thanked us for our information and sent evidence on to the RSPCA. In subseuqent days and weeks we followed up with both the council and the RSPCA and made a return covert visit to see for ourselves what was happening. We can report that Hereford Council did very little to improve the distressing situation but the RSPCA did issue Improvement Notices.
At that point we would have liked to have seen Hereford Council undertake their own investigations into Leigh Hancock. There was no good reason not to, or to delay doing so. We had provided them with original, first-hand, unequivocal evidence of him breeding and selling pups without a license to do so. This was in addition to his activities earlier in Gloucestershire which Hereford Council were aware of.
Our evidence showed a number of breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. However, Hereford Council were happy to defer the welfare of the dogs and pups to the RSPCA. This, despite councils having a legal responsibility to act in cases like this. By leaving it to the RSPCA, it meant Herefeord Council felt they didn’t have to do anything.
However, the outcome was better than it might have been, better than we have seen in some cases during the past 11 years of investigating the UK puppy trade. But this is no thanks to Hereford Council. The case this week which hit the news relates to Leigh Hancock’s activities in Gloucestershire.
Finally Gloucestershire Trading Standards brought their case to court and we thank them for their pro active approach. Animal welfare charges bring little consequence so they went for the fraud involved which resulted in this week’s custodial sentence for this illegal dog breeder.
New laws came into force on 1st October this year meaning that any council must act when notified of illegal dog breeding and selling.
Hereford council must now conduct their own investigations into this breeder so if you have bought a puppy from Leigh Hancock, make sure Hereford Council hears from you.