A DOG dealer who left nine eight-week-old dogs in a car in sweltering heat faces a possible six-month sentence after being convicted of animal cruelty at Blandford Magistrate’s Court last Wednesday writes Polly King.
John Walsh, 55, of Brampton, Cumbria, who denied causing unnecessary suffering, left the dogs on Weymouth Quay, Dorset, on 20 May this year to travel by ferry to Jersey as a foot passenger.
The court heard that the eight week old puppies - six Jack Russells, two Papillons and a Bichon Frise - were only found when their whimpering was heard by a parking attendant who subsequently called the police to the scene.
Walsh, who was jailed in 2001 for illegally importing into Ireland sheep which proved to carry Foot & Mouth as well as other convictions relating to animals, could also be fined and disqualified from keeping animals when he returns for sentencing on January 11 2006.
The court was told that the JSPCA had become aware of contact between a local man and Walsh, thanks to the concerns raised by local dog lover Rose Loane. The man had been refused a puppy by the JSPCA, as his circumstances were considered to be unsuitable for a rottweiler.
Having contacted Walsh via the internet, to purchase a puppy, Walsh persuaded the Jersey man that he might help Walsh sell his farmed puppies on the islands. It was agreed that two puppies would be kept by the local man and that the bill for these puppies which came to approximately £1,000, could be paid by selling other pups.
On 20th May two weeks after the first two rottweiler puppies were delivered as arranged, Walsh boarded a ferry at 6am as a foot passenger with the puppies to be sold on. It is thought that Walsh had hoped this would be an ongoing arrangement as he had set up a scheme to hand over pups, in exchange for cash, at various car parks and similar areas around the island, making the whole business harder to track.
Mrs Loane alerted the port authorities to watch out for Walsh. On landing he was stopped and the port authorities and JSPCA were then able to take the puppies into care. The Jersey port authorities contacted the UK port authorities to let them know that Walsh had left a vehicle there and that there might be puppies locked inside.
The JSPCA seized the puppies, believed to be around 4 weeks old, that were crammed into two small cages, which Walsh carried off the ferry. The pups were cared for by the JSPCA until they recovered from their ordeal and have since been rehomed.
Although the business deal is not illegal, the JSPCA and police discouraged the local man to continue to do business with Walsh. Elected Deputy of St Martins, Jersey, Bob Hill, commented that there were no puppy farms or dog dealers on the islands, and that as they were small communities anything like this would soon be found out and stopped, as had happened in this particular case.
Back in Weymouth at 11:30am, five and a half hours later, car park attendant Margaret Harvey was drawn to Walsh’s vehicle by the whimpering of the puppies he had left behind. It was a very hot day and the interior of the vehicle was described as being "like an oven".
Having raised the alarm, the local RSPCA and police came to the car park and released the pups from the vehicle. The rescuers told how, on opening the vehicle, they had to pause due to the strong stench of urine and faeces. They described the state of the puppies as being anxious, dehydrated and close to death.
A policeman obtained Walsh’s mobile phone number from the ferry company Condor and rang Walsh. When Walsh answered the call he said he would not be back for hours. He had planned to return at 2:40pm on the ferry. When Walsh eventually returned to Weymouth he avoided the police by hiding in a van. Abandoning his vehicle, Walsh made his way back to his home in Brampton, Cumbria. The RSPCA began an investigation and finally tracked Walsh down to his home, there he was arrested by police four days later.
Chairman of the bench David Macpherson remarked: ‘Mr Walsh left the puppies in certain knowledge that he would not get back until 3pm - a period of not less than eight hours.’
Marie Griffiths, the RSPCA inspector in charge of the case, said:
"The court have viewed this as very serious and we hope that they consider a disqualification in this case in view of his previous conviction to prevent any further incidences like this occurring again."
Animal welfare organisations such as WAG were disappointed that sentencing has been delayed. Mr Ken McKie said, "Due to the delay between Walsh being convicted and being sentenced, he is still able to carry on trading in dogs and puppies and he only needs to sell 10 puppies to cover the cost of the fine he might face in Blandford. He also has enough time to set up his business in another name and carry on regardless of any sentence, put on him. Prison and fines do not deter this man from trading these poor little pups and ensuring the misery of the breeding farms continues".