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Welfare agencies join forces to rescue pups

OVER 100 dachshund puppies were rescued from a Tipperary puppy farm last week in a major cross-border operation between various animal welfare agencies in Northern Ireland and Eire.

The 109 pedigree dogs are to be cared for by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at its Benvardin centre near Ballymoney.

The Ulster animal welfare organisation was heavily involved in the Tipperary swoop last Thursday and had passed on information which had helped locate the farm, where dogs were being kept in appalling conditions.

USPCA staff joined with counterparts from the Republic and Garda officers in the nine-hour search.

The animals are being moved to the USPCA’s Benvardin animal shelter in Co. Antrim because it has the necessary specialist facilities, expertise and space.

USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott said: "We have punched a £40,000 hole in this disgusting trade. Three organisations have worked together to make it happen - ourselves and the Irish and Dublin Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This underlines our zero tolerance to puppy farming."

Lucrative

The USPCA has repeatedly highlighted a lucrative cross-border trade in pedigree pups. The dogs are being bred in the Republic and then passed on to Ulster dealers for distribution across the UK. Many enter the UK via Scotland, and recently a number of individuals have been arrested after vanloads of the puppies have been intercepted.

Many have health problems and there have been several cases where high- priced pups have died shortly after being bought by members of the public.

Some of the puppies seized from the Tipperary farm were being kept in a transit van on the farm, while other dogs were found in a cold outbuilding.

Human urine was thrown over animal welfare officials during an angry confrontation with a woman on the farm.

The all-Ireland animal welfare helpline, run by the USPCA, had a key role in the intelligence gathering prior to the raid.

The charity's involvement in the Tipperary operation will leave it with a hefty bill in terms of transport costs, staff overtime and treatment of the animals.

Ulster people were being encouraged by the USPCA to rehome the puppies via the local media.

A USPCA spokesman said: "We have been very heartened by the number of rehoming offers we have already received.

"Anyone interested should phone our animal welfare helpline on 028 9081 4242. However, the dogs will not be immediately available as they are being health-checked."

The helpline, launched last year, had a key role in the gathering of information about the Co Tipperary farm.

The USPCA says many of the pups have health problems and there have been several cases when they have died shortly after being purchased by members of the public for substantial sums.

"We would hope to receive a generous donation from anyone rehoming one of the dachshunds," the spokesman added.

Ken McKie, Secretary of the Ayrshire-based anti-puppy farm organisation, the Waterside Action Group commented:

"While we were delighted to hear of these puppies being seized in premises in Eire it is still tinged with the sadness that these conditions are not the exception but the norm.

Conditions like this can be found in premises throughout the length and breadth of the UK.
"It is now time for ALL Parliaments to stop giving grants to people for this trade. Importantly the public must realise where and how some of these puppies are treated. We hear the horror stories on this trade repeated every day in the week and yet it is not stopping those who breed, who transport, who keep and sell these puppies. It is time for the other Parliaments to emulate the actions of the Scottish MSPs who have recognised this and are attempting to regulate this trade.

"Even more so it is time for all Local Authorities to look at their own practices in licensing such premises. It is always left to the animal welfare groups like the SSPCA, RSPCA, USPCA and Dogs Trust to pick up the pieces and divert hard earned funds to care for animals seized in such horrendous circumstances. We will continue in our campaign to challenge these Local Authorities not to just make money from licence fees but to actually investigate and enforce the laws that are there."

Control

Mr McKie added that it was also time for the UK Parliament and the Eire Parliament to produce sustainable and enforceable legislation to control – and hopefully eradicate – the puppy farm trade.

"We are stunned that these people are free to make huge, and sometimes undeclared, profits from this trade. There is the legislation NOW to recover this money," he added. "One puppy farmer allegedly told the police that while trading he had earned £500,000 profit in six months and yet it was ILLEGAL for him to be trading. What has happened to this money?

What happened to the fact that he was not VAT registered? What happened to his INCOME TAX? At the moment these people are allowed to treat the law and the public with total and utter contempt. This is an illegal profiteering trade in the same league as tobacco smuggling and yet nothing is done to remove the money from these people.

"We urge the public to hound and harass their local politicians to act now and enforce the wealth of legislation. Remove licences from premises that are trading in sick, diseased and dying puppies. We have been accused of being alarmist but now we can state that even we underestimated the horrors in this trade."