|Traffikers sentenced whilst on the run
A couple who sold trafficked dogs from an illegal pet shop are on the run after they were sentenced to jail in their absence.
Laura Kiseliova, 39, and Raimondas Titas, 37, sold the dogs from an illegal pet shop in Salford, Lancashire.
They made £300,000 from the trade in dogs from Eastern Europe. French Bulldogs and Bulldogs, along with other breeds, were sold for up to £2,000 each. Customers were told that the animals had been bred in this country.
Many of the puppies had not been given vaccinations and became seriously ill. A number of them were reported to suffer from potentially fatal lung conditions.
Most of the dogs came from Hungary, Belarus and Poland and they were brought in multiples of up to five at once. They told customers that the business had been approved by the Kennel Club.
An investigation was instituted by Salford and Bury Councils with the RSPCA called Operation Wolf. They were confronted the couple in their home in May 2015.
In 2016 the couple admitted various offences but sentencing was delayed for a year after Kiseliova tried to unsuccessfully withdraw her guilty plea.
They are believed to have fled back to their native Lithuania and a European Arrest Warrant has been issued.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said, 'The front room of the property was being used to sell the animals to members of the public but it was when you entered the rest of the house the scale of this operation became apparent.
'There were cages and pens containing different breeds of dogs in almost every room, including a litter of puppies in a filthy en-suite bathroom upstairs. In a large garage at the back we found cages of animals stacked on top of each other.
'It was clear there were some cats and puppies that needed immediate veterinary treatment and sadly two of the puppies that were rushed to the vets for treatment later died from parvovirus.
'There was little sign of proper isolation pens for sick animals or biosecurity measures meaning any animal that passed through this place would be at risk of catching and spreading diseases and parasites.
'This was a large money-making operation at the expense of the welfare of the animals and the unsuspecting members of public who thought they were buying healthy, happy puppies.'
The judge Richard Mansell QC said, 'They were driven solely by your greed. The conditions the animals were kept in were appalling, keeping them in crowded cages. Many were in pain and your treatment of them was utterly shameful.'
Most of the dogs have been signed over to RSPCA care and have been rehomed.
Kiseliova previously pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading, keeping a pet shop without a licence, keeping a dog breeding establishment without a licence, four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and three charges of failing to ensure the welfare of an animal.
Titas admitted insurance fraud, fraudulent trading, keeping a dog breeding establishment without a licence, four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and three charges of failing to ensure the welfare of an animal.
Overall the pair admitted to a total of 29 charges. Kiseliova was jailed for 4 years and Titas for 42 months and they were both banned from keeping pets for life.