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(Updated 20/5/01)

Akita breeder guilty of selling infected puppy

AN AKITA breeder is facing a Kennel Club investigation after being found guilty by a court of selling a puppy infected with Leptospirosis and also attending a championship show when a vet confirmed the disease, writes Nick Mays.

Julie Bowyer of Worcestershire purchased a nine-week-old Japanese Akita bitch puppy from licensed breeder Pamela Wilkinson on June 9th 2000, paying £600. The puppy appeared healthy and was named ‘Ice’.

However, the puppy became ill after a couple of weeks. Ms Bowyer contacted Mrs Wilkinson, who offered her another puppy. Ms Bowyer declined and Ice died soon afterwards. Her vet confirmed that the puppy had died of leptospirosis. Meanwhile, one of the puppy’s littermates - still in Mrs Wilkinson’s care - became ill on June 15th and died two days later. Mrs Wilkinson’s vet confirmed that this puppy, too, had died from leptospirosis.

Ms Bowyer contacted the charity Justice For Dogs with help in pursuing the matter of her puppy’s death and Mrs Wilkinson’s apparent lack of concern. JFD founder Ann Harpwood wrote to Mrs Wilkinson on the matter, and also contacted Mrs Pat Neil, the Chairman of the Southern Japanese Akita Society, as the society is a supporting member of JFD. Mrs Neil confirmed that Mrs Wilkinson had lost a puppy to leptospirosis in the middle of June - news which came as a shock to both Mrs Harpwood and Ms Bowyer, who had no knowledge of the littermate’s death.
Mrs Wilkinson contacted Ann Harpwood upon receipt of her letter and asked for her assurance that she would not be contacting the Kennel Club.

Ann Harpwood takes up the story: “I asked her why the puppy had not been registered with the Kennel Club so that the purchaser did not have the benefit of the usual six-week free insurance cover.

‘She stated that she did not insure her puppies before they were sixteen weeks of age in case their colour changed. As Ice was a pure white puppy, this comment would not appear to be relevant.

“I advised Mrs Wilkinson that Ms Bowyer did have a claim against her in law to recover the purchase price of the puppy, and also the considerable veterinary costs that had been incurred, but she made no comment... I also pointed out to her that when exhibiting at shows, exhibitors have to sign a declaration that the stock they are taking to shows has been clear of any infectious disease for a period of 21 days prior to the date of the show and that she should not go to any shows until all infection on her property was clear. She assured me that she had no reason to contact her own veterinary surgeon with any of her other dogs.’

Inspection

Mrs Harpwood then learned through a long letter from Mrs Wilkinson’s solicitors that Ice’s litter sister had died on June 17th. She subsequently discovered that Mrs Wilkinson had attended the Blackpool Championship Show on June 22nd, thereby contravening Kennel Club rules and regulations.

Mrs Harpwood later discovered that Mrs Wilkinson was visited by her local Environmental Health Officer on July 10th 2000 with a view to inspecting her premises as part of the requirements for issuing a new license under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act. She somehow failed to mention to the officer her problem with leptospirosis, even though it is a contagious disease.

Mrs Wilkinson’s solicitors, Parkinson Wright of Evesham entered into a protracted correspondence with Ann Harpwood, and pointed out that she had slandered their client and that she, Mrs Wilkinson, would expect an apology from her within seven days, and to desist from taking any further interest in the case.

They also wrote to Julie Bowyer on July 7th 2000 pointing out that “Ann Harpwood’s involvement in the case made it worse” and that her own vets were “incorrect in that they wrongly identified the strain (of leptospirosis) (and reason) that your puppy (and Mrs Wilkinson’s puppy) contracted leptospirosis.”

They added that there were “no legal grounds upon which you can ask for the return of your £600 nor vets fees”.
The case was heard at Evesham County Court on March 5th 2001 before District Judge Vincent, who himself is a dog owner. Having heard all the evidence and considering all points raised Judge Vincent ruled in Julie Bowyer’s favour and ordered that Mrs Wilkinson pay the sum of £1,768.21 damages, plus £595.00 costs.

To date, however, Mrs Wilkinson has not paid the fine and the matter is being referred back to court.
Meanwhile, an official complaint has been lodged with the Kennel Club.

During the period January to December 2000, Pamela Wilkinson registered 12 litters, comprising Akitas, Golden Retrievers, Boxers and Rottweilers, all recorded on KC Breed Records Supplements. For the first quarter of 2001, a further six litters have been lodged for registration.