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Puppy farmer convicted

A PUPPY farmer who has caused outrage in the Kilmarnock area was stopped in his tracks last week when the law finally stopped his operations. Stephen Hamilton was convicted in Kilmarnock Sheriff Court for operating a pet shop without a licence.

However, secretary of the Waterside Action Group (WAG) Ken McKie who has led a campaign against Hamilton’s activities expressed his disappointment that several other matters relating to Hamilton’s business - including alleged trading standards breaches and alleged animal welfare abuses - were dropped or not taken up.

Hamilton had operated his puppy farm from Waterside Farm, Galston and had even flouted planning application rules, but seemed to have escaped prosecution for this breach of the law.

Hamilton appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff’s Court on Thursday 27th.March where he pleaded guilty to operating a pet shop without a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. There had been two continuations for legal debate over all the charges and subsequently the Crown accepted a not guilty plea to the Trading Standards Charges. He was fined £500 payable at £150 per month as he is receiving state benefits.

Ken McKie told OUR DOGS: "It is possible that there was 'plea bargaining' in this case. We have already expressed concerns over the whole competency of the investigation into these matters. We have
received allegations of a witness being advised against furthering her complaint; another witness received a phone call regarding her involvement in matters and was very reticent in responding in case this was a hoax call or a call from Hamilton.

‘I have also spoken to two witnesses who allege that the investigator who attended at their home 'did not appear to know the law or how to carry out an investigation'."

Mr McKie added that the volume of evidence that WAG had uncovered appeared to be totally disregarded by the Trading Standards Officials of East Ayrshire Council. "We have made a formal complaint to the Crown Office over this whole matter. We have been concerned over the approach taken by East Ayrshire Council who seemed to resent any involvement other than their own," he said. "WAG will also be asking the MSPs to challenge the Lord Advocate over this."

It has been alleged by Council Officials and others that Hamilton had boasted of selling over 500 puppies at an average of £300 a time and of having earned a vast sum of money.

Mr McKie added: "If it is true that the figures being suggested are so vast we have asked how can he be on benefit, where is this money now? Why should the public have to foot the bill for what appears to be a badly handled case? WAG are still campaigning against all matters relevant to puppy farms and are receiving a volume of information on other similar premises."

Success

The matter of Hamilton’s re-submitted trading licence is now before a Sheriff under a civil action and WAG are hopeful for more success in this area, as the civil law in Scotland acts on probabilities not absolute proof. This effectively means that a judge will listen to all matters surrounding the case and make an opinion on what probably happened. There is also the pending planning application in respect of Hamilton’s premises at Waterside Farm, Galston and WAG, along with a large number of others residents and individuals have lodged objections to the planning according to East Ayrshire Council, and are awaiting a date for this to be considered.

"WAG is now seeking charity status and has made a submission to the Scottish Parliament Working Party on the strategy for animal welfare which we felt omitted serious issues over the current legislation with respect of alleged puppy farmers and hopefully these issues will be rectified," added Mr McKie. "We have also been asked to attend a meeting on May 23rd where other groups from England and Wales have managed to organise a number of agencies, including MP's and RSPCA, to be there and to respond to the many concerns over the system of 'puppy farms'.

"We will vigorously campaign for changes in practice in the industry and are calling for a minimum standard to be set for local authorities to achieve. We have enquired to the policies of various local authorities on their implementation of the legislation and found that there are vast differences here ranging from excellent to what would appear to be poor. We are also calling for a 'third party' right of appeal in respect of the licensing issues as well as a parliamentary group/committee to oversee the standards achieved by local authorities and powers for them to intervene whereby they can rectify poor management."

WAG is also calling for 'notifiable' disease issues with regards pet animals whereby sources of outbreaks for canine diseases can be quarantined and have to go through a vigorous hygiene process to contain any outbreaks of disease at breeding establishments, which threaten the canine population in the immediate vicinity.