An illegal dog breeder has been forced to pay back the profit she made from selling litters of puppies from her home, after successful Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
Cardiff Crown Court has determined that Susan Thomas, formerly of Heol y Bryn, Rhydyfelin, must forfeit the £4,000 profit Licensing Officers have proved she made from selling puppies when she had no legal license to do so.
She has also been ordered to pay a further £7,500 towards the prosecution costs and has just three months to pay back the total amount. Following her conviction of illegal breeding and animal welfare offences last year, she was banned from breeding dogs for five years.
The successful result in court marks the end of a year of legal action against Susan Thomas, 58, by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Licensing Officers. It sends a clear message that the authority does have access to far-‐reaching and robust legislation to deal with those who make a profit from criminal activity.
The case against Thomas, 58, began in 2013 when Council Licensing Officers were contacted by the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity, passing on the concerns of a man who had contacted them after visiting Thomas’ home with a view to buying a puppy she had offered for sale online.
He was appalled at the dirty and smelly conditions in which the puppies were kept and also concerned about the number of litters of puppies and dogs in the house. As soon as Thomas’ name was mentioned by the charity, officers were aware of her as it had been just over 18 months since they had first prosecuted her in relation to illegal breeding and animal welfare offences.
In 2012, she was convicted at Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court of failing to hold the legal, local authority license that is needed by anyone who produces more than four litters of puppies a year, an offence under the 1973 Breeding of Dogs Act.
She was also convicted of an offence under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act for failing to allow the dogs in her care to exhibit their natural canine behaviour, as they were kept for hours at a time in small cages stacked in her kitchen, instead of being walked and playing in the garden.
The following year online adverts indicated she was continuing to breed puppies illegally, so officers organised a search of her home, in the presence of a vet and police officers.
They entered the property to discover 26 dogs – Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds – and paperwork, photos and mating diaries that indicated at least eight litters of puppies had been bred illegally since the court case.
As a result of the search, Thomas was charged with:
- Keeping a breeding establishment without a license from the council – a breach of the 1973 Breeding of Dogs Act.
- Failing to ensure the needs of her dogs were met – a breach of the 2006 Animal Welfare Act
- Presenting herself as a “member” of online selling sites and not a “breeder”
- AND, engaging in a misleading commercial practice contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act and the Fraud Act.
She admitted the offences and was placed on a 12 month supervision order and banned from breeding dogs for five years.
Following the successful court case, the Proceeds of Crime investigations then began, which involved months of work to match dated picture of puppies and adverts placed on a variety of online selling sites to prove the profit that had been made and calculate the profit made from the prices they were sold at – some as high as £750 per puppy.
The £4,000 confiscation order relates to the calculated profit she made during the period of the offending and the costs relate to the cost of bringing Proceeds of Crime action against her.
Paul Mee, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Director of Public Health and Protection, said: “This is something of a landmark case for us and shows the legislation we have access to – and can use effectively – to deal with those who make a profit from criminal activity.
“This was a complicated case involving a lot of puppies and a lot of prices and officers involved should be commended for the professionalism and tenacity they have shown to recover the profit of criminal activity.
“Importantly, this case is not just about making money from crime. Breeders like Susan Thomas have a legal responsibility to ensure they are licensed so the necessary and regular checks can be made on their breeding operation and ensure the welfare of the animals.
“We thank the Italian Rescue Greyhound Charity for their support in this case.”
[This is the official press release from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council]
To read more about this case, please click here.