A husband and wife from Mountain Ash narrowly avoided being sent to prison for their failure to meet the needs of 15 Labrador puppies they were selling to unsuspecting members of the public for approximately £450 each.
Darrall Webber, 47, and Sally Webber, 42, of Brynheulog, Mountain Ash both pleaded guilty to two Animal Welfare Act offences on Wednesday (12 June) at Merthyr Magistrates Court.
RSPCA Cymru says the case amounted to a “shocking example of greed and profits being put before animal welfare”.
Puppies were sold over a two-month period – mid-October to mid-December 2018 – with the Webbers in full knowledge that the Labradors were either sick, or very likely to become unwell.
Almost all of the puppies had constant diarrhoea after being sold – consistent with chronic infection. In several cases a specific diagnosis was made based on laboratory testing – with the commonly seen pathogens of Campylobacter or Giardia identified in a number of cases. Additionally, Parvovirus was identified in five puppies.
Both individuals were sentenced to 18 weeks in prison – suspended for a one year period. It was made clear that the custodial sentence was only suspended due to their responsibilities for dependents.
The court heard how the Webbers failed to provide a suitable environment for the pups, and failed to protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease – which gave the dogs a “very difficult and challenging start to life”.
Each was banned for an indefinite period from owning, keeping or having anything to do with any animals of any species – effectively acting as a lifetime ban, which the RSPCA say will “protect animals from experiencing a similar fate to the poor puppies involved in this case”.
The Webbers were ordered to pay £800 in costs, and fined £750 apiece. £50 of the fine will be paid to case witnesses in recognition of the distress the Court acknowledged they, and their puppies, were caused by the Webbers – emphasising the “degree of concern” the court had for those impacted by their illegal acts.
RSPCA Cymru’s prosecution followed an appeal for information by the animal welfare charity, after numerous reports were received by the charity about unwell puppies being purchased in the Mountain Ash area.
Detailed investigations from the RSPCA identified 15 impacted puppies, but anyone else who may have been impacted by the unscrupulous puppy dealing in South Wales has been urged to contact the charity.
RSPCA inspector Julie Fadden said: “This was a complex case and a significant, long-running investigation.
“This pair failed to meet the needs of the puppies in their care, in what was a shocking example of greed and profits being put before animal welfare.
“As a result, these poor puppies had a very difficult and challenging start to life – with the dealers fully aware that they were selling ill puppies or pups very likely to become unwell.
“That is grossly unacceptable behaviour, and a dereliction of duty for anybody involved with animals.
“Unsuspected buyers were consistently given false or misleading information and ended up taking on unwell animals – including, in five instances, pups with Parvovirus – three of whom sadly died.
“The court showed a great degree of concern for the people and puppies – and the indefinite ban passed to both offenders will help protect other animals from experiencing a similar fate to the poor dogs involved in this shocking case.”
RSPCA Cymru has urged the public to ensure they only buy or adopt a puppy from a trustworthy, reputable source. The charity promotes the ‘Puppy Contract‘ – a free tool designed to support the responsible breeding and buying of puppies.
In Wales, the Welsh Government recently consulted on a proposed ban on commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in Wales – meaning these animals could only be acquired directly from a breeder or rehoming centre.
RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper added: “This case only emphasises the importance of people able to adopt a puppy, to either do so via a reputable breeder – or, even better, to rehome one of the countless rescue dogs across Wales looking for a second chance of happiness.
“The Puppy Contract is backed by the RSPCA, and is a great way to support the process of the responsible breeding and buying of puppies – giving buyers the factual information they need when making such a big commitment.
“Our investigations found 15 puppies impacted by this sad situation in Mountain Ash, but anyone else who may have purchased an unwell or sick puppy in South Wales is urged to contact our 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.”