RSPCA looking to rehome 6 dogs rescued from Milton Keynes puppy smuggling ring
Animal charity awarded £100,000 costs of bringing the case to court
The RSPCA is looking to re-home six dogs following the jailing of members of a cruel puppy smuggling ring based in Milton Keynes.
Members of the gang were jailed for a total of 18 years following a two-day hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court.
The court heard that between June and November 2019, the RSPCA and Trading Standards received a large number of complaints about the sale of puppies from different addresses in the Milton Keynes area. Some had become sick, others had undisclosed health issues, and three puppies had sadly died. Many puppies had been sold with what appeared to be fraudulent vaccination cards.
Initially these cases were investigated in isolation but, as statements were gathered, it became apparent the addresses were linked and the RSPCA joined up with Milton Keynes Council’s Trading Standards department to investigate.
In November 2019, when one of the suspect addresses had to be dealt with prematurely, all puppy-selling activity at all of the addresses stopped. In February 2020, the selling started again and, on March 19, 2020, RSPCA officers joined Thames Valley Police to execute warrants at six addresses, one storage unit and a number of unregistered vehicles at the Willen Road travellers’ site and Avon House.
Police seized 54 dogs in total which were taken into RSPCA care, for vet treatment and rehabilitation. Cocker spaniels, Schnauzers, Chihuahuas, springer spaniels, Labradors, beagles and poodles were among those removed.
In her witness statement, Inspector Hare said: “As I made my way on to the site it was clear that there were a very large number of dogs and puppies present. Other than a couple of dogs running loose on site, the rest were all being housed in lorry bodies and storage containers situated on the site.
“Some of the dogs had untreated health problems and conditions including fur loss, ear infections and dental disease, and they were all being kept in wholly inappropriate environments,” Inspector Hare added. “The trailers had been split into pens and all of the dogs were being kept in poor conditions. The kennels were dirty and smelt strongly of ammonia, while one of the pens was full of hazards including nails sticking out, sharp metal mesh and wires hanging down. There were holes in the walls and floor that appeared to have been caused by the dogs trying to chew out of the space.
“We removed four pregnant bitches and a poodle cross who had recently given birth, along with five poodle cross puppies who were just 48-hours-old. Police seized a total of 51 dogs and a further four litters of puppies were born in our care.”
Officers found empty vaccination vials and needles, alongside flea and worming products, a stack of blank vaccination sheets which matched those the victims had been given when they purchased puppies from the associated addresses. Interviews were conducted with members of the Cawley family - who admitted ownership of some dogs but claimed they didn’t know who owned others.
A separate investigation had been carried out following the sale of puppies from another second property in Milton Keynes. But it was soon linked with this investigation - named Operation Sandpiper - when CCTV footage was obtained showing a man, identified as John Christopher Cawley from Willen Road, delivering puppies.
The RSPCA gathered further intelligence in October 2020 that puppies were being imported from Ireland, housed on a travellers’ site and sold online, and the adverts were linked to Michael Cawley.
Following a two-day sentencing hearing Judge Sheridan said: "Not one of the defendants in this case should ever be given a licence to breed animals.
"The effects referred to in this case cannot be regarded by the public as anything other than utterly abhorrent."
The judge also warned consumers to take care when they bought dogs from the website Pets4Homes, which had been used to facilitate the sale of many of the scammers' puppies.