Puppies are in pain and suffering all over Scotland. Together, we can be there to pick up the pieces and help prevent more suffering.
A man who intensively bred hundreds of puppies at an Aberdeenshire farm has been sentenced to nine months in prison and disqualified from owning or keeping dogs, rabbits or ferrets for life.
Frank James was found to be running what was believed to be Scotland’s largest puppy farm following a raid and investigation by the Scottish SPCA. When delivering the verdict, the sheriff described him as 'selfish and cruel beyond belief'.
James, 53, of Duncan Street, Banff, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs, ferrets and rabbits under Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 last month. He was also found guilty under Section 24 for failing to ensure the welfare of the same animals at Aberdeen Sheriff Court (Friday 19 July). He was given a sentence of nine months for the first charge and four months for the second charge - they will run concurrently.
A co-accused, Michelle Wood, 29, of Berrymuir Road, Macduff, was also sentenced to 300 hours of community service and disqualified from keeping or owning dogs, rabbits or ferrets for ten years. Wood has been told she will be restricted to her home address between 7pm and 7am for the next six months. On sentencing, the court advised James he could keep two of his own pets and Wood that she could keep four of her own pets.
In November 2017, our Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Police Scotland raided East Mains of Ardlogie Farm near Fyvie in Aberdeenshire. They removed 105 animals in total, including 87 dogs, the youngest of which was just a few days old. The animals, which included rabbits and ferrets, were taken to our animal rescue and rehoming centres for treatment and rehabilitation.
An undercover investigator for our SIU said: “We believe this was the largest scale puppy farming operation in Scotland. The conditions these dogs were being kept in were absolutely disgraceful. It fell far below the minimum standard in terms of animal welfare and, given the environment and sheer volume of puppies, it was immediately evident these were not being kept as pets and the premises was effectively a battery farm for pups.
“Our investigation revealed dogs on site were being intensively bred with little to no regard for their welfare. During the raid we found a burnt out van containing dog carcasses, suggesting this was a means of disposing dead pups.”
James first came to our attention in March 2013, when an investigation led to more than 70 dogs being seized from the same address. Inspectors found cattle sheds packed with breeding bitches and dogs suffering with lice, skin sores, matted hair and cysts on their paws due to the floor being covered in faeces.
Following the investigation, James’ and two of his relatives plead guilty to welfare offences in October 2014. Frank James and his brother were banned from keeping more than two dogs for the next three years.
Based on reports to the charity’s animal helpline, we believe James’ flouted this ban to continue selling puppies.
The undercover investigator said: “We acted swiftly and reopened our investigation in to James’ when we received numerous reports of puppies who were either becoming unwell or dying within days of being purchased by unsuspecting members of the public. Much like the previous investigation, the squalid conditions we found these pups being housed in showed a total disregard for their wellbeing.
“Sadly, when dogs are bred in appalling conditions, it is very common for them to develop serious illnesses, medical conditions or even to die within weeks of being born.”
For us, providing refuge for animals whilst court cases are ongoing is a massive welfare and resource issue. To allow the animals to find homes more quickly, the animal welfare charity decided to pursue a civil action to rehome the seized dogs before the court case concluded. This landmark case was successful and resulted in all of the surviving animals being rehomed.
It costs us an average of £15 per dog per day in care, before adding veterinary costs. Whilst every animal in our care receives all the love and attention in the world, it is not beneficial welfare-wise to spend months or even years in a rescue and rehoming centre until criminal proceedings conclude.
Welcoming the verdict, chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The Scottish SPCA has been picking up the pieces from Frank James’ greed-driven puppy farming operation for several years and we welcome the court’s judgement that his offences merit a jail sentence. Across two raids at the same address, we’ve seized over 150 dogs.
“His disregard for the welfare of animals under his care shows he is devoid of any empathy towards them and, when he is released from jail, we hope he is never in a positon to own or sell animals again. He clearly flouted his previous ban for animal welfare crimes and would hope to see this ban properly enforced to ensure that does not happen again.
“Following the overwhelmingly positive response to the Scottish Parliament’s public consultation on animal welfare law amendments and harsher sentencing for the worst animal cruelty offences, we would welcome more severe punishments for heartless criminals like Frank James and a greater availability of punishments for the courts to choose from.”
“More importantly, a monumental effort from our inspectorate, veterinary experts and rehoming teams has seen these animals find fantastic homes with loving families. We recently reunited many of the dogs at our Glasgow centre and the difference compared to when we seized them was unbelievable.”
“Our message to the general public remains the same – if you want a dog, adopt and don’t shop. But if you must buy a puppy, do your homework, visit the Say No to Puppy Dealers website, and make sure you buy from a responsible breeder. The only way puppy farms will disappear, and people like Frank James will stop profiteering at the expense of intensively bred dogs, is if public demand stops.”
“Through the UK-wide, multi-agency Operation Delphin group, we’ll continue to work with partners to disrupt the puppy trade.”
The SIU team spearhead Operation Delphin, a multi-agency taskforce aiming to bring illegal puppy traders to justice. It is supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council, ISPCA, RSPCA, USPCA, DSPCA, Stena Line, Police Scotland and others. Disrupting the multimillion pound industry is one of the Society’s main priorities, and its #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign has received widespread public and cross-party political support.
Mike added: “The quickest way to halt the supply of illegally bred pups is for public demand to fall. People like Frank James will continue to profit at the expense of dead and dying dogs for as long as members of the public fuel the trade – the onus is on them to step up.”
People can sign the #SayNoToPuppyDealers’ pledge here: https://www.saynotopuppydealers.co.uk/sign-the-pledge/