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Puppy farm raided

OVER FORTY dogs of various breeds were seized by the authorities from a puppy farm near Evesham, Worcestershire last weekend, but volunteers for local breed rescue groups are concerned for the welfare of an estimated 50 dogs which have been allowed to remain on the premises – including at least two litters of newborn puppies.

The saga began when Rachel (surname withheld on request) who is a volunteer for J R Whippet Rescue saw an advert in her local newspaper on December 28th advertising a large number of dogs and puppies for sale of various breeds, including Whippets, Bedlington Terriers, French Bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers. She was concerned at the number of breeds being sold and suspected that the seller was operating a puppy farm. She was also curious to note that the premises in question were over 40 miles from her own area, so the advertisement was being deliberately placed as far afield as possible – a typical ploy used by puppy farmers.

Rachel made contact with the advertiser, Mr Ian Ashby and made arrangements to visit his premises the next day – Saturday December 29th - posing as a buyer wanting Whippet puppies.
Mr Ashby gave her directions and Rachel drove to the premises as directed with a friend.

Rachel told OUR DOGS: ‘The place was quite a distance from the main Evesham road, up a farm track. There were two large gates with signs warning about Guard Dogs. I couldn’t see anything resembling a kennels so I telephoned the gentleman and he said ‘Oh, you’re at my front door, I’ll bring the puppies up to you’. I told him we’d need to see the parents of the puppies too, so he said he’d bring them up. He came to the gate with the puppies, which looked in good condition, and two adult Whippets. It was obvious to my friend and I that the adult bitch could not be the puppies’ mother, as she was clearly not nursing.’

Mr Ashby was ‘quite charming’ and eventually decided that the two ladies were legitimate buyers and took them up to his ‘kennels’, which turned out to be a derelict bus on wasteground on land adjoining a garden nursery. Both women were shocked at what they saw, with dogs of several breeds, including puppies, being placed in cages inside the bus, the floor of which was ‘swimming in rainwater’. The dogs appeared to be in good condition, but their housing conditions were appaling.

‘I also noticed at least two Labradors, a Great Dane and a number of Border Collies in cages outside the bus,’ added Rachel.

The women bought a five week-old Whippet puppy from Mr Ashby for £220 and departed. The puppy has since received a great deal of treatment from Rachel’s own vet, as it has a chronic worm infestation and had been unwell since she brought it home.

Following the undercover visit, Rachel contacted Janet Brandrick of Bedlington Rescue and discussed the situation, as there were Whippets and Bedlingtons that desperately needed rescuing. She then made contact with the Environmental Health Department of the local authority, Wychavon District Council, but their response was far from encouraging.

‘They didn’t seem at all interested,’ recounts Rachel. ‘I pressed them to take action and queried whether Mr Ashby had a breeder’s licence which, it turned out, unsurprisingly, he did not. They said they had no knowledge of any such premises in the location, which is surprising, since the place was investigated a few months previously, I have since learned. I was told by one of the officers that he would contact the RSPCA, and would get back to me, but urged me not to tell the press. I heard nothing for about ten days then I contacted the RSPCA – they’d heard nothing from Wychavon District Council about this, so I told them the situation.’

Last Friday, the premises were raided by Environmental Health Officers, accompanied by RSPCA Inspectors and police officers. It is believed that 44 dogs were removed from the premises, but other remained. It is understood that the dogs were allowed to remain as they were either whelping or nursing bitches.

Rachel was told of the raid and advised that the dogs had been placed with the Dogs Trust rescue centre at Evesham. She and Janet visited Evesham where one of the senior staff let them see the dogs that had been brought to them, but there were no Whippets or Bedlington terriers, and there were only 40 dogs – the whereabouts of the remaining four is unclear.

Wychavon District Council Environmental Health Department refused to comment to OUR DOGS on the matter, but sent a prepare statement, ascribed to Steve Jorden, Head of Environmental Services at Wychavon District Council, who said: ‘We are conducting an investigation with regard to this and the individual involved is cooperating. It's a sensitive issue and for legal reasons we're not prepared to divulge any further information at this stage. A further statement will be issued in due course if deemed appropriate.’

Rachel said: ‘We are desperately concerned f or the dogs that are still on the premises. We have offered the Council our services as Breed Rescue to take in and rehome the Bedlingtons and Whippets, but our offers are not being responded to.’
Mr Ashby was unavailable for comment.