A Kent couple who sold dying puppies to unsuspecting buyers have been jailed for a number of fraud and animal welfare offences.
Anthony and Lucy O’Donnell, both of Old Maidstone Road, Sidcup, appeared at Inner London Crown Court for sentencing after 12 people reported buying sick puppies, ten of whom later died.
At a previous hearing, the couple pleaded guilty to a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs and for failing to meet the needs of 11 puppies. Lucy O’Donnell also admitted one offence of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The pair were, this week, sentenced to jail terms for their involvement in the sale of puppies. Lucy O’Donnell was jailed for two years and disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years, while husband Anthony was given a five-month jail term and also disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years.
The RSPCA became aware of the puppy dealers in December 2015 following a number of calls to the charity’s cruelty line reporting the deaths of puppies they’d bought just days before.
RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport led an investigation into the dealers. He said: “Twelve people who had bought puppies from the same address got in touch with us to report concerns around the sellers after their dogs fell ill soon after coming home.
“Sadly, of those 12 pups, all but two died.
“We launched an investigation which involved gathering evidence from the owners and their vets, as well as sending two undercover officers along to the property to buy a puppy.
“The officers – posing as a couple buying the pup as a birthday present – met a woman, now known to be Lucy O’Donnell, at the side of the road and after a few minutes of questions, handed over cash and walked away with the tiny puppy.
“Luckily for him, he was taken straight into the care of one of our centres and, later named Branston, was rehomed and is now living a wonderful life with a loving family.”
Just a few weeks after the test purchase, in January 2016, the RSPCA and local police executed a warrant at the address and discovered around 50 dogs and puppies at the property.
“While there were a large number of dogs at the property, there was no evidence of anything illegal regarding those dogs so none were seized from the address on the day,” inspector Lamport said.
“However, due to the evidence from the buyers of the puppies and their vets, we were able to proceed with our investigations in relation to the puppies that the O’Donnells had sold in the run-up to Christmas.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that this couple put money and profits ahead of the welfare of these poor pups and, as a result of failing to establish a disease control programme and failing to provide appropriate treatment for illness, 11 puppies lost their lives.”