THE BREEDER at the centre of the big news story about 180 Labradors being rehomed by the RSPCA has hit back at inaccurate reports about how and why the dogs were rehomed by the RSPCA from her establishment.
Speaking exclusively to OUR DOGS newspaper, Christina Cade, who breeds under the Crisella affix, from Swanton Morely, Norfolk slammed recent reports as being "totally wrong", whilst saying that she never wished to involve Labrador breed rescue groups in the enterprise, believing that the RSPCA were the best equipped to deal with the number of dogs involved and to ensure they were properly rehomed.
The dogs ranged in age from four months to two years, and were mostly black Labradors. Some news reports suggested that there were a number of chocolate Labrador puppies amongst them, although Miss Cade denied this, saying that the only chocolate dogs were, in fact, four chocolate Curly Coated Retrievers.
Last week, the RSPCA collected the puppies from Miss Cade’s premises and officers distributed them to around 20 other rescue centres around the country. The charity said that they would have no trouble finding homes for the dogs and this was borne out after GMTV featured the story, prompting over 40,000 telephone calls to the RSPCA’s Rotherham Call Centre from people registering an interest, eventually causing the BT telephone exchange to collapse.
A charge of about £200 per dog was made to cover the cost of their care while with the RSPCA, plus vaccination and microchips.
The RSPCA was keen to emphasise that there were no welfare concerns with the dogs nor have there ever been any such concerns.
A spokesperson stated that plans to remove the dogs were being put in jeopardy because of press speculation and appealed to everyone to allow them to remove the dogs safely and carefully, thus avoiding the dogs from being put through undue stress at this time.
"This has been a very hard decision for the owner who has acted solely in the interests of the animals’ welfare," said the spokesperson. "We would ask that, at this time, the media respect her privacy and refrain from contacting her during what is an emotionally difficult time."
Fifty of the young Labradors were given a temporary home at Block Fen Animal Centre at Wimblington, near March, where crowds of eager pet-lovers crammed into the entrance foyer as soon as doors opened last Saturday lunchtime, eager to secure a Labrador.
Notices were hastily displayed telling latecomers that enough people were already on the premises and asking them to ring in later.
RSPCA Superintendent Tim Wass, who is responsible for the RSPCA’s operations in East Anglia and the Midlands told OUR DOGS that Miss Cade had sought the charity’s assistance in rehoming the dogs and, following a visit from an Inspector, Supt. Wass checked with other RSPCA centres that they had the capacity to take the dogs.
"We did have the capacity and it was amazing that 46,000 people contacted us within a few hours of the news breaking," he said. "Last Saturday at Block Fen we operated on a ‘First Come, First Served’ basis, but I have to stress, to counter inaccurate news stories that the majority of the dogs are still in the centre and will remain there until we have visited the prospective owners for our standard home check. No dogs are likely to removed within the next seven days.
"Every single animal at Block Fen was treated for fleas, worms ear mites and so on, even if they did not have them, and all will be neutered and microchipped before being rehomed."
Supt. Wass said that over 1,000 people visited the centre over the whole day. One person arrived at 1.30pm the day before and camped overnight. At 7am there were16 families outside, having slept overnight in their cars. At 9am the Centre issued 100 tickets giving a ‘first reserve’ on the 50 dogs in kennels. Two reserves were put on each dog, in case the first person or family reserving the dog did not pass the homecheck or dropped out for some reason, ensuring that there was a back-up home for the dog.
Naturally, a number of people were unable to secure a Labrador, but this led to a rather unexpected – and positive – side effect. "There’s a really happy story in this," said Supt. Wass. "Some people who came, realising they couldn’t get a Lab went to look at other dogs in the centre. We were therefore able to put reserves on 27 other dogs and the centre is as empty as it has ever been."
There were dissenting voices, however. A number of Labrador Breed Rescue groups had offered to help the RSPCA to take in and rehome some of the dogs but their help was turned down.
Anne Carter, administrator of the Labrador Lifeline Trust told OUR DOGS: "Together with two other Labrador Rescue charities we approached the RSPCA to offer out help, as we knew about this situation before the news story broke. We said that between us we could take up to 20 Labradors. We weren’t asking for puppies, we’d have taken breeding bitches, we’d have whelped them, or we’d have taken older dogs – anything to help out. But we were told by the RSPCA that our help wasn’t needed."
The local authority, Breckland Council that had served a number of enforcement against Miss Cade after repeated complaints from nearby residents about noise.
A petition was handed to the council in May 2002 signed by 120 people demanding action to quieten the noise from the dogs at the kennels. Miss Cade spent £90,000 on building a soundproof kennel block for the dogs.
One condition of the planning permission for the new building was that Miss Cade ceased using the original stable for dogs by February 2004.
However, this building is still in use and noise has apparently persisted, resulting in two noise-abatement notices being served, whilst a further notice was served for breach of the Breeding of Dogs Act after numbers on the land exceeded those set out by a vet when the licence was given.
Miss Cade's licence to breed and sell dogs has expired and she had no alternative but to reduce the number of dogs in order to meet the notices and continue with her business.
The Breeder speaks
Miss Cade spoke exclusively to OUR DOGS about the whole situation: "There were no baby puppies amongst those that went to the RSPCA, the youngest was about four months, the eldest was about two years," she said. "There were four black Labrador puppies aged nine weeks that went direct to Strathclyde Police at their request to be trained as sniffer dogs, because I thought that was very worthy. But not one chocolate Labrador puppy left my premises, despite what the press said. There were, in fact, four Curly Coated Retrievers."
On the subject of her breeding operations, Miss Cade explained that her breeding licence had expired in August this year and she had decided not to renew it until she had met with Breckland Council on Thursday of this week to discuss the matter, having reduced the number of dogs on her premises.
"The RSPCA have been absolutely marvellous an they are helping me with matters connected to the breeding licence. Both sides will discuss the matter and hopefully reach an agreement on my being able to continue.
"One of the things the council wanted me to do is to put my whelping bitches and puppies in the soundproofed building and it’s not suitable for them, and this is one of the points we’re discussing. Breckland have admitted that whelping bitches do not make a noise, so there shouldn’t be any problem with them being housed in their own special building. I believe - and the RSPCA agree with me - that whelping bitches and puppies need peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of other dogs."
Asked whether there had been complaints about noise caused by the dogs, Miss Cade said: "There will always be complaints about kennel noise, which is why we spent £90,000 building a soundproof kennel block. So this is why we’ve had this thin out so we can get all of the animals - except, of course the whelping bitches and puppies - into the block so they’re not causing any noise whatsoever."
When asked why she had dealt only with the RSPCA and not Labrador Rescue to rehome the dogs, Miss Cade declared: "Well, breed rescue think they are able to cope more than the RSPCA.
"The RSPCA know absolutely nothing about any approaches to them from these societies and the RSPCA has stated that if there was an approach from breed rescue, it is not their principle, being a charity, to give dogs to any other charities. I purposely chose the RSPCA because they have a good reputation, they thoroughly vet people who take dogs from them and they have a back-up system if anything goes wrong with those dogs."
It is clear that Miss Cade had bred a large number of dogs over the years. The Kennel Club’s Breed Records Supplement shows that in 1997 she registered 24 litters, then in 1998: 21, 1999: 8, 2000: 17, 2001: 2, 2002: 6. However, in 2003, no Crisella litters were registered.
Miss Cade confirmed to OUR DOGS that she had not registered many litters recently due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak as she keeps cattle and also because of pressure from the local authority. "We were closed for about five months while the foot and mouth was on, so that was the start of the build-up [of dogs]. The we were negotiating and building this soundproof building, so I actually stopped breeding for two years."
Since the 180 dogs were taken by the RSPCA, Miss Cade confirmed that she had aimed to breed from the remaining dogs again, once the matter of her licence was sorted out with Breckland Council. "I’m aiming for a maximum breeding stock of 40 dogs," she said.
Asked if the 180 re-homed dogs had been a static population, Miss Cade replied: "Well, obviously I’ve told you the age range. We had a poisoning incident in the kennels last year and because of that we weren’t selling. Mentally that’s very disturbing and there were personal reasons of ill health, so the dogs did mount up. Breckland council were right, I had to get my numbers down, I knew I’d have to get the numbers down and I did this in the best way I could. The RSPCA has been absolutely marvellous, a lot of planning and organising went into this, long before it was known. When the dogs went from here, they knew exactly what centres they were going to and where they were allocated homes. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing on my part. And as the RSPCA has been keen to stress, there was never a welfare issue here."
Miss Cade felt she had been unfairly criticised and wasn’t prepared for journalists from national and regional newspapers gathering in the lane outside her driveway, which caused a great deal of distress to her 89 year-old mother.
"I just wish the media had taken notice of the RSPCA’s press release just before they took the dogs, when they stressed there wasn’t a welfare issue here and all the media interest we were getting was putting the dogs in jeopardy," she said. I’m very grateful to OUR DOGS and to yourself personally for taking the time and trouble to ask me the truth of the matter."
A spokesman for the Kennel Club commented: "We were concerned to learn of this case although fortunately, it would appear that the breeder has made it clear from the outset that the RSPCA's involvement is not due to the welfare of the dogs - it is more to do with the sheer number of dogs on site that have caused the problem with regard to noise. It would also appear that the breeder spent a considerable amount of money in an attempt to remedy the problem but, nonetheless neighbours still continued to complain, which has resulted in two noise abatement notices being served and a further notice served for breach of the Breeding of Dogs Act with regard to the number of dogs on the premises."
The spokesperson continued, "Ms Cade has registered dogs with us and if she was concerned, at any time she could have called the confidential 'Breeders Helpline', where a representative could have got involved on her behalf. Readers are also probably aware that if approached by local authorities, the RSPCA and Trading Standards with regard to problems with breeding establishments, we do everything in our power to assist them and if prosecutions do occur, then we have the disciplinary systems in place to deal with the issue. However, it would appear in this particular case that the breeder will not be prosecuted. We will consider to monitor this situation and hopefully it will be satisfactorily concluded for all concerned - in particular, the dogs."