A puppy dealer from Edmonton has been jailed and disqualified from keeping animals for life after he appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on  Friday 10 November, having pled guilty to “a number of fraud and animal welfare offences in connection with puppy dealing in London”.

Martin O’Donnell, 35, was found guilty to five offences of fraud by false representation and one offence of failing to meet the needs of dogs. A second person, a 48-year-old woman associated with Mr O’Donnell, was also found guilty of the latter offence and accepted an adult written caution, plus a court order prohibiting her to keep dogs for three years.

The prosecution was brought forward following an RSPCA investigation on puppy dealing in the London area, led by Inspector Kirsty Withnall.

“We were aware that there was a serious problem with the sale of poorly puppies in the capital and had been following leads for a number of months,” she said. “Our investigations led us to puppy buyers who had purchased dogs from the address in Mottingham Road. We spoke with five people who had all bought Labrador pups from the defendant in November and December 2016 – all of which had fallen ill and one sadly died of parvovirus, a highly contagious virus. They had paid between £550 and £580 for each dog.

Lola and the pups were not related, but she was there to be passed off as their mother – a common way to deceive puppy buyers who do the right thing and request to see the litter with their mother

“These dogs were being imported – we suspect illegally from southern Ireland – and being advertised online as home-bred, socialised and healthy dogs. The reality was far from this. They were weak, poorly and terrified.”

 When searching O’Donnell’s address last February, RSPCA officers also found a female chocolate Labrador – later named Lola – tied in the garden, and three more puppies, named Blossom, Hendrix and Marley after being placed in the RSPCA’s care. Lola and the pups were not related, but she was there to be passed off as their mother – a common way to deceive puppy buyers who do the right thing and request to see the litter with their mother.

Inspector Withnall said, “Lola was tethered on a chain in the garden. In a padlocked plastic shed nearby were the pups. They were all quiet, withdrawn and, after being check over by a vet, it was clear they were very sick. We found text message conversations on phones at the property between the defendant and prospective buyers making arrangements as well as instructions on uploading adverts to websites.

O’Donnell, who had several different email addresses and phone numbers to keep up the charade, made at least £7,000 from the sale of puppies – but RSPCA inspectors suspect it was actually much more

“Prospective buyers were led to believe that the puppy they wished to purchase had been born and raised in a loving family home, the mother dog being a family pet. When visiting, buyers were usually met by a man and there were often children present, giving the impression of the ‘family home’ that the puppies were claimed to have been part of. But vaccination cards were registered to false names and under different addresses, the puppies had overseas microchips and the ‘mum’ wasn’t related to them at all. These are all tactics used by dealers to paint a certain picture and trick the prospective buyer.”

O’Donnell, who had several different email addresses and phone numbers to keep up the charade, made at least £7,000 from the sale of puppies – but RSPCA inspectors suspect it was actually much more. Lola and the three puppies were cared for by staff at RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, and have since been rehomed.

The RSPCA urges anyone thinking of getting a dog to consider rehoming a rescue dog from one of its centres. If set on buying a puppy from a breeder, the animal welfare charity advises buyers to use its Puppy Contract to help find a happy, healthy dog.

Inspector Withnall added, “These people are calculating criminals who put money ahead of the health and welfare of dogs. Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between legitimate, responsible breeders and unscrupulous sellers so we would urge anyone looking for a puppy to be incredibly careful, do lots of research and, if they have concerns, to walk away and report it to our cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.” 

The RSPCA urges anyone thinking of getting a dog to consider rehoming a rescue dog from one of its centres. If set on buying a puppy from a breeder, the animal welfare charity – which has seen a 132% increase in the number of calls about the illegal puppy trade in England & Wales – advises buyers to use its Puppy Contract to help find a happy, healthy dog.

Images by RSPCA.

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