Are Horrible Histories Being Repeated?
The recent case in Ceredigion, Wales of convicted illegal dog breeder, Richard Samuel Morgan Jones whose dogs were ‘close to death’ has ignited a blaze of concern among members of the public. As awful details of how dogs suffered for years in his breeding facility were reported in the national media, many realised it could have been prevented if the authorities had acted much sooner. Ceredigion Council were first given reports by Puppy Love Campaigns about what was going on at the Jones puppy farm in 2011 (detailed here). It took a further 6 years for a prosecution to happen. Just for a moment, imagine the poor dogs during those weeks, months, years, confined in those dreadful conditions. Failed by the officials in Ceredigion Council who could, and should have saved them.
Even when they did finally act, the decision makers in Ceredigion Council opted not to ensure the safety of the animals by removing them from Mr Jones. They could have done. They could have requested and accepted assistance from animal welfare charities. They did not. This detail, the dogs being left in the hands of Richard Jones is one of numerous facts in this disturbing case which has fired the concerns of many. Even at the time of writing, several weeks after the prosecution, the whereabouts of the poor dogs has not been made public. This, despite concerted efforts of concerned individuals, direct requests to the council for information and a petition which has gained over 20,000 signatures.That alone is a staggering confirmation of the level of public interest and concern directed at a Welsh Council.
All of which appears to have fallen on almost deaf ears. A few mumbles of decency have emanated from some in the authority but nothing amounting to much. But then, Ceredigion Council have a history of not getting dogs to safety and placing them in rescue, even in cases where it would seem the kindest act for the dogs. In a 2010/11 case, Derrick Davies, kept dogs in conditions described at the time by the Veterinary Director of the Dogs Trust, Chris Laurence as the worst he had seen. Puppy Love Campaigns gained footage from inside the place:
Yet, despite Ceredigion Council investigating and ordering Davies to rehome some of the 94 dogs, they did allow him to keep 12 breeding bitches when he’d made improvements to their satisfaction and they issued a license for his puppy farm. Rather than seizing the dogs, something the Council could have done to save them, officials allowed Davies to pass them to other breeders so their miserable lives of breeding would continue. This is not a guess or assumption on my part, communications at the time from the Council confirm some dogs went to licensed breeders aka puppy farmers. Something it’s assumed, although no-one knows for sure yet has happened to the dogs in the Jones case.So, several years on from one awful case of neglect and suffering, Ceredigion Council oversee similar, yet again. Nothing changes for the dogs. Nothing.
It’s abundantly clear that the council officials – who are the ones with statutory powers and responsibilities – have priorities that are not shared by those of us who care about the welfare of dogs. It’s unfathomable why people who have proven track records of animal neglect and abuse are allowed to keep the dogs, or sell them to others in the same business. Except there’s the crux – the business of puppy breeding is big. Huge in fact and for many in authority that comes way above any concerns about the dogs.
In various responses emanating from Ceredigion Council that I’ve seen relating to the Richard Jones case, there’s been an attempt, successfully, at least for a short while, to deflect attention away from their responsibilities and failures, and onto the RSPCA. Deliberately tactical in my view, as the predictable result has been that the concerned many, desperate for straight answers and clarity as to where the blame rightly lies, have diverted efforts away from holding Ceredigion Council to account. As the statutory authority they, not the RSPCA have the power to enter, inspect and prosecute dog breeding facilities. People assume the RSPCA have these powers (they do not) and quickly rage at the charity given any shot of encouragement when failures in these areas, as played out in Ceredigion are witnessed.
Yet it’s those who make decisions for the dogs that are responsible. Blaming welfare charities for political or operational decisions, is a tactic used to divide and weaken opposition. It’s done by those in power time and time again.
It’s important that as campaigners and concerned individuals we maintain the focus where it needs to be – at those who have the legal responsibility to protect the dogs, with the powers to do so. Ceredigion Council did not accept offers of help from RSPCA Cymru in October 2016 to provide support in the Richard Jones case.
One can only wonder why, but as there’s little doubt if the RSPCA had been involved the dogs would have been removed from his possession – unlike in the Derrick Davies case – and not been left for him to sell on, it’s not hard to see a pattern here.
A pattern that could be repeating itself right now in Ceredigion. Puppy Love Campaigns have been reporting to Ceredigion Council their concerns about a similar situation. This particular case involves a breeder who was formally licensed by Ceredigion Council, (as remember were Jones and Davies), but isn’t currently. This, despite keeping numerous dogs on the premises. Here’s just a snapshot of what’s happening there, recent photographic evidence gained by Puppy Love Campaigns volunteers:
The responses from Ceredigion Council licensing department to Puppy Love Campaigns concerns to date are not reassuring. They express little concern about the dogs welfare on the premises as at the time of their visit they found no evidence of dog breeding. A deft shift of responsibility to the RSPCA for enforcing animal welfare in unlicensed premises is also attempted in one communication.
For Ceredigion Council to appear so unwilling to demonstrate an immediate, unequivocal commitment to animal welfare in the wake of a case that’s attracted so much public attention and concern will dismay many. But not surprise others. It’s really time that those with the power to protect the dogs do so willingly and with a clear demonstration that lessons from cases like the Jones case have been learned. Only, to do that, Ceredigion Council would have to recognise that allowing dogs to suffer in breeding facilities, for years as they did in the Jones case is wrong. I’m not at all sure that Ceredigion Council understand that.