The bodies of more than a dozen puppies have been discovered dumped in Hogg End Lane, St Albans, over the course of several months.
The RSPCA was called on February 27, after a member of the public spotted the bodies on the verge. An animal collection officer (ACO) attended the scene and found the bodies of nine pups, thought to be between six and eight-weeks-old, and a mix of breeds. ACO Kate Wright searched the area and found the decomposed remains of at least three other dogs.
When the RSPCA returned to the site a few weeks later, on 18 March, the bodies of two further puppies were found in the same spot.
Inspector Rachel Smith, who is a member of the RSPCA’s Canine Focus group which investigates welfare complaints connected to the puppy trade, said: “They had obviously been recently dumped there as the bodies were still in rigor mortis and one of the puppies was covered in live fleas.
“It was heartbreaking to see them lying there, so thin and covered in sawdust.”
Neither of the dogs were microchipped and had no clear cause of death.
A multi-agency operation, featuring the RSPCA, Herts Constabulary and Dacorum Borough Council, has been launched to tackle the illegal puppy trade in Hertfordshire and educate the public.
Sergeant Karen Mellor, from the Hemel Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “There are clear links between unlicensed puppy breeding and criminal activity.
“Breeders are believed to be targeting people – often vulnerable individuals – in Hemel Hempstead and the surrounding areas to use their homes to sell puppies, using the property as a meeting place after advertising the dogs online.”
The police have warned members of the public that breeders may use violence, intimidation or other coercive behaviour to get what they want.
Hertfordshire residents are advised to contact the police on 101 if they are approached to sell puppies from their homes, and are asked to keep an eye on friends, relatives or neighbours they suspect may have been targeted.
Dacorum Borough Council – which holds an RSPCA Gold Footprint Award for its work with stray dogs – would like residents to be mindful that this is happening in the area and to report the mistreating of animals as well as stray, lost or missing dogs to the council’s dog warden on 01442 228418 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who believes they may have purchased a puppy from an unlicensed puppy breeder or dealer, or has concerns about the welfare of dogs and/or puppies at a premises in the area, should call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.