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Watchdog pounces on puppy farmers

THE PERILS of puppy farms were highlighted on the BBC’s leading consumer programme Watchdog last week, and although the subject matter was all too predictable – families who wanted a ‘good, pedigree dog’ at very short notice replying to advertisements by a ‘commercial breeder’ listed in an advertising newspaper, followed by the inevitable disappointment when the puppies fell sick upon arriving at home - the programme did offer sound advice on the best way to buy a pedigree dog.

It also exposed an individual puppy farmer who, it transpired, had convictions under trading standards law and had also been cited for selling sick horses.

Back in September 2005 the programme ran an expose on a horse dealer named David Thomas who was passing off elderly and diseased animals as fit and healthy. He didn't supply horse passports, as he is required to by law. Thomas was already under investigation by trading standards and he was prosecuted shortly after the programme aired. His reaction was to move to a new county and set up business again. But this time he had turned his attention to dog breeding and selling.

Watchdog heard from several families who had bought puppies from Thomas that died shortly after. Three families interviewed in the programme saw an advertisement offering puppies for sale under the name Puppy Paradise, Thomas's company based at a farm near Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

For those people unable to travel, Puppy Paradise also offers a delivery service. The Croft family asked for a Yorkshire terrier puppy to be delivered to their home. It cost £350. Theresa Croft said: ‘She started to move about and that's when I noticed, by her tail was a red lump.’ Poppy was suffering a prolapsed bowel and had to be put to sleep.

Heather Grainger's Labrador Toby died from a massive worm infestation. This wouldn't have happened if the condition had been properly treated before he was sold. Grainger asked for her money back. She was told, ‘the cheque was in the post’. Two months and ten phone calls later it hadn't arrived. She went to Puppy Paradise, accompanied by a Watchdog film crew where she got her refund and, after much wrangling, the money for her vet bills.

Nadine Thorpe bought a King Charles spaniel from Puppy Paradise. ‘The dog started having diarrhoea and she couldn't even get to her paper or anywhere near her paper. It was literally pouring out of her and there was blood and everything all over the floor,’ said Nadine. Thankfully, after receiving prompt veterinary treatment, the puppy recovered, although Puppy Paradise was reportedly ‘uninterested’ in its condition.

Watchdog sent two undercover reporters to Puppy Paradise to select a puppy. They secretly filmed the transaction, where two sales girls at the farm indulged in a ‘hard sell’, trying to press the would-be purchasers to take a puppy. The puppies filmed had grossly distended bellies, which indicated a worm infestation.

The programme’s animal expert James McKay gave his opinion on responsible breeding:
‘One thing I noticed was that the girls selling the puppies were making a sales pitch and weren't asking about the condition under which the dog would be kept,’ said McKay. ‘And that's not what you would expect from a responsible breeder.’

This advice was echoed by studio guest Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of the Dogs Trust, who advised potential owners to ‘ask lots of questions and see the puppies with their mother.’ She also pointed out that there were thousands of dogs in rescue centres needing good homes
Watchdog then went on to explain that Puppy Paradise is run by David Thomas and his female friend Dagma Blic. Thomas has previous convictions for fraud and owes more than £46,000 in county court judgements, copies of which were shown on screen. Thomas has also been taken to court for breaching consumer protection legislation. If he breaks the law again he could be jailed.

Hopefully, after Watchdog’s expose of his latest ‘business venture’, justice may be done for those pets which have died after passing through Puppy Paradise’s doors.

If you have a complaint regarding Puppy Paradise, contact Doncaster Trading Standards on: 01472 324770.

Watchdog’s website: www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog