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Scottish puppy farmer’s lenient sentence slammed

THE TRIAL of a man named as one of the key players behind the illegal puppy trade in Scotland was heard by Stranraer Sheriff Court last week, despite having previously been adjourned until the New Year.

As reported previously John Walsh, 52, was arrested after leaving the port of Cairn Ryan with 49 puppies in the back of a van on July 18th, believed to have been illegally imported from Ireland as part of the flourishing undercover trade in dogs, many of which are sold on the British mainland and in the Middle East.

Walsh, from Brampton, Cumbria was prosecuted and appeared at Stranraer Sheriff Court on Tuesday 29 July 2003, where he pleaded not guilty.

Last week, the prosecution accepted a plea of guilty to Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 section 11(b) in that he did transport the animals which caused suffering. On all other charges – those of animal welfare breaches - Walsh’s plea of not guilty was accepted. The court fined Walsh £500 and effectively freed him to continue his illegal trade.

Ken McKie, Secretary of the anti-puppy farm group Waterside Action Group slammed the court’s decision. Mr McKie told OUR DOGS: "WAG are appalled and disappointed at the lenient sentence given out to John Walsh at Stranraer Sheriff Court today. The £500 fine is only the price of one puppy to this man. He avoided a ban on animals by plying a sob story to the court.

"In fact this man had been sentenced to two months imprisonment over a Foot and Mouth outbreak in Northern Ireland. This is not a poor animal trader this is a criminal! We will be asking that the Crown Office challenge this very lenient sentence in respect of a ban from keeping animals. This has to be done as the sentence received sends out the wrong message to people like Walsh who make ample amounts of money out of the suffering of poor animals. Animals that have had only a few weeks of life and then endure the miserable existence being transported by the ‘caring’ dealer like Mr Walsh who, during the video taken by the police, spent more time drinking water rather than give this to the urine sodden, faeces covered puppies that he had illegally transported. It must be seen that this will only be the first of many convictions that will hopefully become commonplace."

Mr McKie added that WAG were planning to push the Crown Office for an appeal against the sentence.

"What we are now gearing up to do is to 'encourage' the crown office to appeal his sentence and ask for a ban for keeping animals.

"WAG have drafted a letter to be sent to our supporters and added to our web site for them to correspond with the crown office and endeavour to have this conviction appealed on the grounds of leneincy.

"We would invite all dog lovers to use our letter as a template and write to the Lord Advocate to call for the case to be appealed. Justice must be seen to be done, for the dogs’ sakes."

This is a template of the letter that WAG is asking supporters to send to the Crown Office to appeal against John Walsh’s lenient sentence:

Lord Advocate
Crown Office
25 Chambers Street
EDINBURGH
EH1 1LA

Dear Sir,
PF –v – John Walsh

I am/we are writing to express our concerns over the lenient sentence meted out to the above person in Stranraer Sheriff Court on 11 November 2003.

It is my/our opinion that this sentence was extremely lenient given that by past conduct he has shown total disregard for the welfare of animals in any way. This sentence will be totally ineffective against this man and the only way that the public and animals can be protected will be to have this sentence changed to include a ban from keeping animals.

I/we hope you can assist the public in this matter as I am/we are incensed by this and can only hope that the public opinion will be rewarded by your efforts.