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Animal welfare charity ‘dismayed’
at low fine for trading in misery


The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stated on 11 November 2003 that it was dismayed at the low sentence imposed by Stranraer Sheriff Court on puppy trader John Walsh.

"These animals were treated as a commodity, packed into a car at the height of summer with no thought for their welfare. Such a low sentence will go no way towards deterring this heartless trade – it works out at roughly the selling price of two of these little dogs," said Doreen Graham, Scottish SPCA press officer.

Concerned workers on the ferry to Cairnryan called Dumfries and Galloway police on 17 July 2003, after they noticed John Walsh’s Fiat Punto car filled with cages carrying 49 young puppies and three kittens. The animals, some of which are pictured above, were taken into the care of the Scottish SPCA, which found new homes for them over the following weeks.

John Walsh pled guilty to offences under the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 and was fined £500, with £2,900 costs to the Scottish SPCA. The maximum possible sentence is £5,000 per offence, plus six months prison per offence. John Walsh also pled not guilty to offences under the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997.

The Scottish SPCA has investigated several cases of puppies being brought over from Ireland for resale in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, and is concerned that the trade is expanding. It is believed that traders make regular trips to Scotland to sell puppies through dealers. Although the trade is extremely lucrative, the puppies are bred in squalid conditions on puppy farms, and arrive in Scotland with many health and welfare problems including skin infestations, dehydration, stress and gastro-enteritis.

The Society is working with MSPs on a cross-party sponsored Bill to control puppy dealing, to be lodged by Christine Grahame MSP. Scottish SPCA Parliamentary Officer Libby Anderson said: "This low sentence for what we see as a serious animal welfare offence illustrates exactly why we need stronger legislation to deter the trade. John Walsh apparently claimed in court that he was only transporting so many animals to save them from squalid conditions – but he subjected them to even more distress. Anyone buying a puppy from these sources is encouraging a trade in misery."