Members of an organised gang who are estimated to have made more than £8,000 a week selling sick, diseased and dying puppies have been jailed after one of the RSPCA’s biggest ever investigations into the puppy trade.
The case concluded today and lifted the lid on the trade in puppies, which were being sold for £50 commission each – before many subsequently died or needed lengthy and expensive veterinary treatment due to their poor health.
Paula Wood, James Brady, Louise Colwell, Kenneth Colwell, Thomas Greally and Stacey Greally – all from the Greater Manchester area – admitted a string of animal welfare offences linked to organised crime involving the sale of sick puppies. They were sentenced today (3.8.15) at Oldham Magistrates’ Court.
One puppy sold by Wood and Brady, called Crumpet (right), was so sick that he was put on a drip and had to be fed through a tube in his nose, before he died.
Thomas Greally and Kenneth Colwell were sentenced to 20 weeks in custody, while Brady was given 10 weeks custody. The district judge said the number of puppies Thomas Greally admitted to selling for between £550-£650 meant some weeks he would have made more than £8,000.
Wood – who the district judge said had shown no remorse – was given a 12 week custodial sentence which was suspended for 12 months. She must carry out 250 hours unpaid work during a 12 month community order and also pay £1,000 costs.
Louise Colwell and Stacey Greally – formerly McEwan – was sentenced to 20 weeks custody, which will be suspended for 12 months. She must also carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and pay £2,000 costs.
All six defendants were banned from keeping dogs for the rest of their lives.
The case against the six defendants was part of a major investigation known as Operation Pagan, which has been led by the RSPCA’s special operations unit.
None of the defendants would reveal where any of the puppies came from. However, they admitted failing to ensure the welfare of the puppies they were selling after numerous witnesses contacted the RSPCA after buying sick puppies from the six who appeared before the court.
It is suspected they had been imported from across Europe and then sold by the defendants as part of an organised business.
Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “This case is hugely significant. It shows the lengths some dealers will go to, making it look like the puppies they are selling have been bred in a homely environment.
“They produce glossy brochures, healthcheck cards and fancy looking ‘pedigree’ documents that aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
“This investigation has shown puppy dealers are becoming increasingly savvy to make their dealings look legitimate. They rent houses and put a smattering of furniture in them to make it look like a family home, from which they peddle these sick puppies.IMG_9537.JPG
“On some occasions that we have been told about, adult dogs would be presented under the false pretence that they were the parents of the puppies being sold.
“It is organised crime and animal suffering on an almost industrial scale.”
Warrants were carried out by Greater Manchester Police, with RSPCA attendance, at properties on Fields New Road, Oldham, and Valentine Street, Failsworth, on 27 November 2013. These followed a number of calls to the RSPCA from members of the public who had bought sick puppies from the addresses, after they had been advertised online.
A total of 39 puppies of unknown origin were seized during warrants including chihuahuas, pomeranians, spaniels, shih tzus and Yorkshire terriers (pictured) that had been kept in purpose built pods at the rear of the addresses.
The court was told that six of the puppies were so sick they had to be put to sleep by a vet, while 65% had congenital defects of some kind.
Other items seized by police during the warrants included approximately £3,500 in cash and a step-by-step guide to selling puppies, which said sellers would receive £50 commission on every sale they made.
Thomas and Stacey Greally and Kenneth Colwell were arrested and interviewed, while Louise Colwell was interviewed at Fields New Road.
Glossy ‘Kennel Registration’ packs (right) found during the warrants showed links to Brady and Louise Colwell’s mother, Wood, who were also selling puppies.
A warrant was subsequently carried out at Owler Lane, Oldham, on 18 December 2013, but no puppies were found.
However, the RSPCA had received many concerned calls from people who had purchased puppies from the address, including Kimberley McDonald, from Stoke-on-Trent, who bought cockerpoo Crumpet from Wood and Brady. Crumpet died just 13 days after Kimberley took him home.
Kimberley said: “On the surface when we arrived to collect Crumpet everything seemed fine. We pulled up outside a lovely semi-detached house which was very clean and the people seemed really in to their dogs.
“But on the journey home Crumpet kept doing this weird snuffling then coughing like a cat does when they have a hair ball. He also kept constantly scratching and had all these little scabs all over him.
“His health carried on deteriorating badly and after lots of vet visits over the coming days, he was admitted to the surgery and after some tests they found out he had parvo.
“Poor Crumpet was put on an intravenous drip and given a plasma transfusion. He also had a tube put into his nose to feed him as he wasn’t eating at all.
“Every time I went to visit Crumpet it was a military operation. I had to have a shower just before I went and as soon as I’d got changed I had up walk straight out of the door without touching anything in the house. I had to put scrubs on when I was there and gloves too so I couldn’t even touch him properly. It was awful.
“All he wanted to do when I was there was curl up in my arms and I spent the whole time I went crying. Losing Crumpet was the worst heartache I’ve ever felt in my life.
“This whole experience has massively affected our lives. Not only did it upset our daughter knowing her lovely new puppy was gone after she had only just bonded with him but at the age of six she also discovered how cruel some human beings can be.”