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Puppy farm pair guilty of animal cruelty

By Kyle Ritchie

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A Banff man and Macduff woman who intensively bred hundreds of puppies at a farm near Fyvie have been convicted of animal cruelty offences following an investigation by the Scottish SPCA.

Frank James (53), of Duncan Street, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs, ferrets and rabbits.

He was also found guilty of failing to ensure the welfare of the same animals at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Friday.

Co-accused, Michelle Wood (29), of Berrymuir Road, was also found guilty of the same charges.

In November 2017, the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit (SIU) and Police Scotland raided East Mains of Ardlogie Farm near Fyvie.

They removed 105 animals in total, including 87 dogs, the youngest of which was just a few days old. The animals were taken to Scottish SPCA animal rescue and rehoming centres for treatment and rehabilitation.

An undercover investigator for the Scottish SPCA said: “We believe this was the largest-scale puppy farming operation in Scotland.

“The conditions these dogs were being kept in were absolutely disgraceful. It fell far below the minimum standard in terms of animal welfare and, given the environment and sheer volume of puppies, it was immediately evident these were not being kept as pets and the premises was effectively a battery farm for pups.

“Our investigation revealed dogs on site were being intensively bred with little to no regard for their welfare.

“On site, we found a burnt-out van which had dog carcasses within, suggesting this was a means of disposing dead pups.”

James first came to the attention of the Scottish SPCA in March 2013, when an investigation led to more than 70 dogs being seized from the same address.

Inspectors found cattle sheds packed with breeding bitches and dogs suffering with lice, skin sores, matted hair and cysts on their paws due to the floor being covered in faeces.

Following the investigation, James and two of his relatives pleaded guilty to welfare offences in October 2014. Frank James and his brother were banned from keeping more than two dogs for the next three years.

Based on reports to the charity’s animal helpline, the Scottish SPCA believe James flouted this ban to continue selling puppies.

The undercover investigator said: “We acted swiftly and reopened our investigation in to James when we received numerous reports of puppies who were either becoming unwell or dying within days of being purchased by unsuspecting members of the public.

“Much like the previous investigation, the squalid conditions we found these pups being housed in showed a total disregard for their wellbeing.

“Sadly, when dogs are bred in appalling conditions, it is very common for them to develop serious illnesses, medical conditions or even to die within weeks of being born.”

For the Scottish SPCA, providing refuge for animals while court cases are ongoing is a massive welfare and resource issue.

To allow the animals to find homes more quickly, the animal welfare charity decided to pursue a civil action to rehome the seized dogs before the court case concluded.

This landmark case was successful and resulted in all of the surviving animals being rehomed.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The quickest way to halt the supply of illegally bred pups is for public demand to fall.”

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