A NOTORIOUS puppy farmer walked free from a Scottish Court last week after his case was found ‘not proven’ – a ruling applicable only in Scottish law.
Stephen Hamilton stood accused of animal cruelty for transporting 102 puppies packed into cramped cages in a trailer en-route to his puppy farm at Galston, Ayrshire. Scottish police arrested Hamilton last year after the puppies were brought into Scotland from Ireland as part of an ongoing puppy farm trade. Hamilton was stopped by police and SSPCA officials and later charged.
Ken McKie, Secretary of the anti-puppy farm organisation Waterside Action Group which has pursued Hamilton and many other puppy farmers for several years was aghast at the verdict.
"WAG cannot express their utter disgust for the ruling in the case of Stephen Hamilton," said Mr McKie. "An eminent QC Paul McBride, more used to high profile murder cases than animal welfare, led the defence. Along with this a qualified Veterinary Surgeon who had allegedly retrained in Law gave evidence that the transportation of puppies in cramped and poor conditions was both legal and competent. How any person with an ounce of concern for animals can make such a statement defies logic.
"This was 102 puppies in a tow a van trailer with inadequate ventilation, travelling from Ireland and then for two hours in a boat in 29 cages connected by cable ties and elasticised cables with four St Bernards running loose with a small fan which would not be operating during the voyage as the car battery would most likely have become fully drained and yet a man who has studied as a vet can say this was in order is not only disgusting but a blot on humanity.
"The Crown had Walker Miller a well qualified vet and breeder of dogs who exports dogs all over the world state categorically that this was wrong and exposed these dogs to suffering and yet we had the defence agent, Steve Lomax, with a calculator take this and make it seem reasonable is unbelievable. If this is how this man practiced as a vet perhaps a career move to Law was fortunate to all animal lovers."
It took 60 cages for SSPCA officials to transport the puppies to a rescue centre, but they had been held in just 29 cages. However, the court accepting Steven Lomax’s evidence as a vet that this was not overcrowding.
Both WAG and the SSPCA are lobbying the Scottish parliament to approve a planned new anti-puppy farm bill that would demand a whole raft of safeguards for the breeding, sale and transportation of puppies.
"These Changes would insist on paperwork, schedules of rest, identification of puppies, amount of space per puppy etc," added Mr McKie. "It is time that this trade stopped. The courts MUST assist all the welfare agencies and push for convictions on these cases. The defence expert witness was allowed to participate in the case before giving evidence so it was little wonder he knew the answers needed.
"We will now be stepping up our campaign to DEMAND that the law changes, DEMAND, that the MSPs in the Scottish Parliament that have not supported this legislation wake up and see what is happening in front of their eyes. Residents in Ireland are appalled to be considered the ‘puppy farm’ capital of the world; now Scotland will be seen as the home for refugee puppy farmers who can ply their trade with no apparent concern for the animals.
"We do not need Stephen Hamilton here, we do not want Stephen Hamilton transporting puppies, we do not want Stephen Hamilton selling puppies and by God we will do everything in our power to bring the activities of people like this into the public eye."
l Since the above story was reported, OUR DOGS has learned that Hamilton had put his property, Waterside Farm in Galston, on the market.
"We must claim a victory for WAG and their supporters that the planned ‘puppy farm’ never came to fruition," said Ken McKie, Secretary of WAG. "This was despite the fact that the local authority, the Inquiry Unit and the prosecution services, in our opinion, failing the public by their actions, or more like inactions. "Public opinion was massively against these premises but no one in authority took things seriously enough until WAG was formed and had the massive support given to them by the public.
"However we must never be complacent and believe in total victory here. We do not know where Hamilton will be moving to nor if he has any plans for starting a business there. Having thumbed his nose at the authorities over the past years, especially operating without a licence despite repeated requests to stop, Hamilton would appear to have thrown in the towel. We will reassure him though that we will be on the look out for any ideas he may have of setting up elsewhere. We must prevent people like Hamilton from having anything to do with dogs in the way he has allegedly treated them in the past!"