Five people have been sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud and animal welfare offences after selling sick puppies to members of the public, with one puppy dying within hours of arriving in their new home. Overall, the puppy farming group made over £500,000 from the sales.
The five – Wally Beaney, Louise Smith, Maria Smith, Charlotte Byron, and Debbie Lampard – were sentenced on Thursday 25 January at Woolwich Crown Court. While Ms. Lampard was sentenced to an 18 month conditional discharge, the other defendants received custodial sentences ranging from 2 years and three months to four and a half years.
Their activities first came under scrutiny when the RSPCA became aware of several cases in which puppies had fallen ill and died shortly after being taken home by their new owners. In one case, three Golden Retriever puppies from the same litter all died within four days after purchase. A number of dogs and pups were found living in squalid conditions at two Beechwood Gardens properties.
RSPCA inspector Vikki Dawe, part of the charity’s Special Operations Unit, said, “These dogs were all being kept in horrible conditions with very poor care which did not remotely reflect the expectations of buyers who saw the adverts placed for them.”
A number of phones were also seized, showing that Wally Beaney had been purchasing large quantities of puppies of various breeds. One message read, “Bought 20 last week, sold about four, I’m sweating. I got cockapoo westies and some other crosses, been slow this week… could do with going back into a good four month lockdown.”
Inspector Dawe said, “The defendants conspired together to acquire and sell puppies through advertising them in such a way as to entice the potential purchaser into coming to see the puppy, where they inevitably want to purchase it regardless of any warning bells.”
She added, “They advertised the puppies under different aliases and as a ‘private’ seller, making it appear as if the puppy had been bred from a family pet and not from somewhere unknown or farmed.
“The puppies were then sold from the defendants’ home addresses and buyers were told that they had been bred from the family pet and were being sold from family homes.”
Following the sentencing, Inspector Dawe said, “This was a long and complex investigation and we are grateful to everyone who cooperated. A particular thanks must go to Kent Police Rural Task Force for their assistance working alongside the RSPCA investigating animal cruelty. Puppy farming has upsetting consequences for the puppy’s owners and the puppies themselves.
“We’d always encourage anyone thinking of getting a puppy to adopt rather than buy, and to do lots of research first to ensure they source a dog responsibly.”
Images by RSPCA