Going Where Few Others Dare
Prosecuting puppy farmers for animal abuse is something members of the public cry out wanting to see. When we see images on TV of the neglect and abuse many breeding dogs experience, it’s hard to understand how prosecutions are not more numerous and breeding facilities not immediately shut down. Glance at any social media post detailing yet another rescue of puppies from shocking conditions, and comments flood in decrying the authorities, welfare organisations and those responsible for the suffering. Yet few understand the full processes required to bring prosecutions, or the difficult steps that must be taken for them to succeed.
Unlike a few years ago, nowadays many people are aware of the cruelty and suffering that’s endemic in puppy farms. Most know this through the edited lens of news and media reports, TV programmes, social media and magazine articles. Then there are those who gain closer knowledge by rescuing, fostering and adopting the dogs who make it out of the puppy farms, often in dreadful states of physical and emotional neglect. Then there’s the truly knowledgeable kind of person, the type whose awareness isn’t second-hand. What these few people know, comes from within the puppy farms; it’s first-hand, exceptional and gut-wrenchingly awful knowledge. It comes before the animal abusers running these horror-holes have had a chance to ‘tidy up’; before the animal welfare organisations and authorities get to see behind the closed doors of the hell-on-earth they create for the animals that are unfortunate enough to be at their mercy.
In the UK there’s only a handful of people who have this rare level of experience and knowledge and through their efforts several puppy farms have been put out of business. Playing a vital role in prosecuting puppy farmers is something the small team that make up Puppy Love Campaigns have been doing for several years. They’ve been gaining, and living with, the burden of upsetting knowledge which comes from investigating and reporting breeders and animal abusers for 9 years. Their evidence has often been the only means by which prosecuting puppy farmers has been possible. They are poles apart from any other campaigners in the UK today and countless dogs lives have been saved by their actions.
Their most recent case involved a known and convicted animal abuser who earlier this month received a 7-month jail term and 5 year ban on keeping animals. The details are upsetting and dreadful to imagine. The sights, smells and sounds of what they experienced when visiting the puppy farm cannot be adequately described. To read about it, is enough to haunt me, let alone to have entered that brutal place. Yet this is what the volunteers of Puppy Love Campaigns did last winter in order to get the necessary evidence for this prosecution to take place.
I wanted to know more about their role in this case, which is similar to other cases they have worked on which have also resulted in the closure of breeding establishments. Their spokesperson told me:
We received a complaint about this man to our phone line and in October 2015 visited his property. We already knew about him selling sick pups and knew he‘d previously been prosecuted, and convicted for cruelty to horses. He was under a ban from keeping horses but not other animals. He’s well known in the region and his reputation went before him. We knew we’d be at some risk.
As you can imagine it was with trepidation we went to his property, we had to paddle through all kinds of muck and debris to get the evidence. We didn’t see all the dogs but we saw enough for what we needed.
Following this visit, and others like it, Puppy Love Campaigns hand their footage and evidence to the RSPCA, or if a Scottish location, the SSPCA, make statements and wait for the legal process to unfold. Contrary to what many people think, the RSPCA cannot enter any property without a Judge issuing a warrant. To do this, sufficient, concrete evidence must be provided. This is the quiet, but critical, brave role that Puppy Love Campaigns play.
For whilst the RSPCA can knock on any door if they have reports of cruelty, they can, and are, refused entry by the owners of animals. This then allows time for the suspected person to remove any evidence, ‘tidy up’ and be ready should they return with a warrant. By doing what they do, PLC provide the evidence for warrants to be issued, leading to visits like that to Andrew Paul Thomas, described by RSPCA officer Gemma Cooper to Dogs Today Magazine:
Within five minutes of my arrival I was covered in head to toe in faeces and urine. I was drenched to the bone. It was unimaginable. The dogs were stinking because they were living in this horrific environment. There were puppies being born in faeces. There were dogs that had untreated ear and teeth problems that needed immediately veterinary treatment and there were six underweight dogs that were all noticeably skinny. There were also a number of sheep and a couple of pigs that had been shoved into a barn. There was no ventilation, no water or food and they were just crammed in.
It can take months for cases to come to court for many reasons, sometimes the defendants ask for more time, they don’t turn up, or they just delay things as best they can. For those involved in getting the evidence, the wait to see the outcome of their efforts is painful. As in other legal areas, when prosecuting puppy farmers and animal abusers there’s never any guarantees that a prosecution will succeed, or even when they do, that adequate sentences will result.
But, at least in this case and others that Puppy Love Campaigns have been instrumental in bringing to court, their reward is knowing that there is one less puppy farmer in business thanks to their efforts and that of the RSPCA in bringing the prosecution.
Although they seek no thanks, and quietly continue their determined efforts to bring an end to the abusive puppy industry, they deserve much thanks, respect and gratitude from us all. Their courageous actions are what’s making the difference to the lives of dogs. They are getting places closed down, providing necessary evidence for prosecuting puppy farmers and putting them out of business.
To support their efforts, please share their stories and news so that others can learn the full truth about today’s modern puppy business. Let them know their work is appreciated by us all, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.