Rescued puppy, close-upA man who was caught illegally smuggling puppies via Holyhead has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Ben James Illidge (d.o.b 22/12/1983), of Wilson Crescent, Northwich, was sentenced at Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday 13 July), having previously pleaded guilty to a series of charges.

Illidge was caught – in November 2016 – seeking to smuggle 35 puppies through Holyhead Port in hugely inappropriate conditions. He was identified as part of Operation Delphin, a multi-agency operation tackling the scourge of the undercover dog trade, led by the RSPCA.

The pups were travelling in very poor conditions, without ventilation, in the dead of night, with the RSPCA outlining how the man sought to make a “quick buck” by “subjecting innocent, defenceless puppies to misery”.

The man was today sentenced to three 18-week prison sentences, which will run concurrently, and are suspended for a one-year period. He was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, handed four £400 fines totalling £1,600 and told to pay costs of £1198.98 and a £115 victim surcharge.

Prosecution activity was taken forward by the Isle of Anglesey Council.

Ian Briggs, chief inspector of the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “This prosecution makes an important statement that agencies will not stand-by while unscrupulous puppy dealers seek to make a quick buck while subjecting innocent, defenceless puppies to misery.

“Fortunately, working together, we were able to intercept this illegal consignment of pups, who were being carted into Wales in the dead of night in deeply inappropriate conditions.

“The RSPCA was pleased to work so closely with a number of key agencies in seeking to tackle the scourge of illegal puppy smuggling via Holyhead Port. We will continue to fight this criminality, and protect the animals involved.

“Sadly, many well-meaning, but unsuspecting new owners are buying pups who have been imported in such shocking conditions, which merely fuels those seeking to treat the lives of young animals as a means to raking in murky profits.”

Anglesey’s Chief Public Protection Officer, David Riley, said: “The County Council welcomes today’s sentence following its successful prosecution of Ben Illidge.

“We will not tolerate people who flaunt the law to engage in this illicit trade. It is unacceptable that profit is put before the welfare of animals, and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to bring offenders before the Courts.”

The puppies were intercepted following an intelligence-led move, as part of the RSPCA’s wider work with Border Force; Local Authorities, including Isle of Anglesey County Council and Pembrokeshire County Council; the DSPCA; ISPCA; SSPCA; USPCA; veterinary surgeons; the Police; HMRC; Welsh Government; APHA; and other agencies.