A man has been jailed and disqualified from keeping dogs for life for a number of fraud and animal welfare offences in connection with puppy dealing in London.
Martin O’Donnell (DoB: 23/04/82) previously of Mottingham Road, Edmonton, appeared at Isleworth Crown Court today (Friday 10 November) after previously pleading guilty to five offences of fraud by false representation and one offence of failing to meet the needs of dogs.
The RSPCA had been gathering intelligence and evidence on puppy dealing in the London area for more than a year, sparking a number of warrants at addresses including this one.
Inspector Kirsty Withnall led the investigation. She said: “We were aware that there was a serious problem with the sale of poorly puppies in the capital and had been following leads for a number of months.
“Our investigations led us to puppy buyers who had purchased dogs from the address in Mottingham Road. We spoke with five people who had all bought Labrador pups from the defendant in November and December 2016 – all of which had fallen ill and one sadly died of parvovirus, a highly contagious virus. They had paid between £550 and £580 for each dog.
“These dogs were being imported – we suspect illegally from southern Ireland – and being advertised online as home-bred, socialised and healthy dogs. The reality was far from this. They were weak, poorly and terrified.”
RSPCA officers joined a team from the Metropolitan Police who executed a warrant at the address on 23 February and found a female Labrador tethered in the garden and three puppies inside a plastic shed.
The chocolate-coloured bitch, called Lola, and the three puppies – later named Blossom, Hendrix and Marley – were all seized by police and placed in RSPCA care. They were cared for by staff at Southridge Animal Centre, in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, before being fostered by volunteers.
The bitch was not related to the pups, all three of which were microchipped with overseas chips and all of which were sick, suffering from isospora or coccidia and giarda – both types of parasites. Three vaccination cards were also found at the house, one of which matched one of the puppies – but they were all registered to a different name and address.
Inspector Withnall added: “Lola was tethered on a chain in the garden. In a padlocked plastic shed nearby were the pups. They were all quiet, withdrawn and, after being check over by a vet, it was clear they were very sick.
“We found text message conversations on phones at the property between the defendant and prospective buyers making arrangements as well as instructions on uploading adverts to websites.
“Prospective buyers were led to believe that the puppy they wished to purchase had been born and raised in a loving family home, the mother dog being a family pet.
“When visiting, buyers were usually met by a man and there were often children present, giving the impression of the ‘family home’ that the puppies were claimed to have been part of.
“But vaccination cards were registered to false names and under different addresses, the puppies had overseas microchips and the ‘mum’ wasn’t related to them at all. These are all tactics used by dealers to paint a certain picture and trick the prospective buyer.”
The court heard that O’Donnell had made at least £7,000 from the sale of puppies, although RSPCA inspectors suspect it was actually much more. The court heard he was organised with different phone numbers and email addresses in order to “deceive the public”.
Lola and the three puppies were cared for by staff at RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, in Hertfordshire, until they were healthy enough to go into foster care. When the dogs were signed over a few months later, the dogs were all rehomed by their fosterers.