RSPCA disappointment by puppy trading and overworked horses at Appleby


The RSPCA was called to assist with a number of animal welfare concerns at Appleby Horse Fair last weekend, including incidents involving horses, dogs and chickens.

The team of RSPCA inspectors and welfare officers, most of whom have attended the event for many years, dealt with 184 animal welfare incidents over the four-day event in Cumbria. Examples of some of the incidents include issuing eight warnings to owners of horses that were not fit to work due to exhaustion or injury as well as some who were just too young, and a warning notice to the owner of a dog that was suffering from heat stroke.

The team was on-hand to offer welfare advice, support and education for the hundreds of horses brought to the fair, working with equine charities British Horse Society, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, The Donkey Sanctuary, Oak Tree Animals Redwings Horse Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare – as well as a group of vets.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Beth Clements said:
Sadly we were called to deal with several animal welfare concerns at Appleby, involving injuries on some of the horses, mishandling and even beating of some horses, some tangled in tack or rope, and overriding or overdriving horses who were then exhausted.

It’s a real shame that each year a few horse owners and riders let the whole fair down. During the four-day event, we treated a large number of horses brought to us by their owners for advice or medical care for minor injuries or issues.

However, police also seized seven horses, eight puppies and three chickens following welfare concerns, and placed them into our care. We’ll be looking into these situations further now and are investigating two cases that may lead to a prosecution.

Two stray dogs were brought to us and have now been taken in by the local dog warden, and we were even called about two fledgling owlets who were found in a nearby village.

The annual gathering of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the town of Appleby in Cumbria typically sees up to 40,000 visitors across the four-day event.
The fair has been in existence for 300 years or more and is the largest horse fair in Britain and amongst the oldest in Europe.
In October 2007, the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) was set up to bring together and co-ordinate the work of the key public agencies that have a regulatory role at the fair.
The MASCG consists of representatives from the Gypsy and traveller community, Eden District Council, Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Cumbria NHS, North West Ambulance Service, RSPCA, Environment Agency, South Lakeland District Council, Highways Agency and HMRC. The objective is to make the fair a safer and more enjoyable event for residents, Gypsies and travellers and visitors.



Puppies were “found dead in a freezer” during an investigation into an £850,000 dog-selling fraud, a court was told.

RSPCA investigators who searched two addresses linked to the gang found other young dogs infected with viruses, and discovered animals advertised as “home bred” had been bought in with doctored vaccination details.

Their inquiries revealed that the unlicensed gang in Essex had advertised more than 500 high-value puppies for sale during a 16-month period, with many buyers reporting that the animals died a short time after purchase from infections.

At Basildon Crown Court, four members of the gang pleaded guilty to offences related to the fraudulent sale of puppies, and will be sentenced later this summer.

  • Stacey Hayward, 41, of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, pleaded guilty to fraud;

  • Steven Foster, 42, of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, admitted acquiring criminal property;

  • Kelly Bennett, 43, of Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, pleaded guilty to fraud;

  • Ricky Bennett, 41, of Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, admitted acquiring criminal property.

Kelly Bennett also indicated guilty pleas for two offences under the Animal Welfare Act while Ricky Bennett indicated a guilty plea to one animal welfare offence.

Complaints over sick puppies

An investigation was launched by the RSPCA and the local authority after members of the public complained about puppies they had bought from addresses in Billericay, Grays and Thurrock.

The charity’s special operations unit (SOU), which investigates serious, organised and commercial animal cruelty – such as the high-value trade in puppies – started looking at premises in Crays Hill in Billericay, in 2019, after complaints from members of the public.

Hazel Stevens, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: “Members of the public had made complaints to the local authority and the RSPCA about puppies being purchased from said premises – which soon became ill after sale.

“Twelve witness statements were taken in relation to puppies with health problems which were sold from the Billericay address between June and September 2019, and one in March 2019.

Some of those accounts from families who lost their puppies to illness were read to the courts.

One family said they had bought a puppy named Mabel from Hayward in Billericay in July 2019, only to see her succumb with parvovirus days later.The family said in a statement read to the court: “When I saw her she was lifeless. It will be an image I will never get out of my head. I said to the vets that it was best to put her to sleep.”

Some of those accounts from families who lost their puppies to illness were read to the courts.

Some of those accounts from families who lost their puppies to illness were read to the courts.

One family said they had bought a puppy named Mabel from Hayward in Billericay in July 2019, only to see her succumb with parvovirus days later.The family said in a statement read to the court: “When I saw her she was lifeless. It will be an image I will never get out of my head. I said to the vets that it was best to put her to sleep.”

Breeding and sales licence revoked

The court was also told that Basildon Council had licensed Stacey Hayward to sell puppies but the licence was revoked in July 2018 due to complaints about sick puppies, while her breeding licence had run out in December 2018.

Hayward and her partner Steven Foster moved to a new home and, in October 2019, complaints began coming into the RSPCA related to an address in Weymouth Drive, where Kelly and Ricky Bennett lived. An RSPCA officer visited in August 2019 to speak to them about licensing but no licence was ever issued for the address, the court was told.

Weymouth Drive was linked to an address in Colliford Road via a witness and was confirmed as Hayward and Foster’s new home.

Both sellers were advertising puppies who were described as being “bred at home” but several puppies appeared to have been sourced from Wales, with Welsh vaccination cards containing details cut out or erased.

Prosecutor Ms Stevens added: “In addition, adverts were placed on the selling sites with various names and numbers. Visitors to the Hayward address were still shown her licence documents despite its revocation.“Search warrants were executed at both properties and puppies were found to be present at both with some adult dogs. Dead puppies were also found at both properties in the freezer (two at Weymouth and one at Colliford).”

She said seizures of paperwork and phones showed the link between the two addresses.

Sales operation ‘worth £850,000’

Nine puppies were found living in a shed at the rear of the garden at Colliford Road, and were taken into care.

One later died of parvovirus but the others, who were suffering from Giardia – a small parasite that attacks the intestines – and other health problems, made full recoveries and were rehomed.

At Weymouth Drive, officers found three adult spaniels, five cocker spaniel puppies with Giardia and and two dead spaniel puppies which “appeared to have been dead for days”, the prosecutor said.

RSPCA officers worked closely with the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit’s financial investigator who analysed financial records linked to the sellers and attributed about £850,000 of income linked to the sale of puppies.

Seized phones were analysed and showed many messages responding to adverts for puppies, using different names.Bank statements showed payments with the reference “puppy”.

Messages showed that both Hayward and Kelly Bennett were sourcing puppies on a regular basis and placing adverts online using fake names and details, and claiming the puppies had been bred and reared in a family home.

Messages on the phones also showed that Ricky Bennett had taken payments for the puppies, while witnesses had paid money into Foster’s bank account for puppies too.RSPCA officers analysed the adverts and estimated that at least 100 adverts had been placed, advertising around 500 puppies, between December 2018 and March 2020, across Gumtree, Preloved and Pets4homes.

The court heard that the selling of puppies continued throughout lockdown, until May 2021.

All four will be sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on August 12


CONVICTED Kenneth Thomas , 58, and partner Denise Warner, 48, of Perthcelyn, Mountain Ash, South Wales – kept two malnourished dogs outside in freezing conditions.

RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said she attended Hazel Terrace on 8 December 2021 and could see the two dogs, Sheba and Vinnie, in the back garden. They had no shelter and were shivering.

Inspector Cooper spoke with the defendants and explained that the dogs were in very poor body condition and that they needed to go to the vets.

Thomas and Warner agreed to transfer the ownership of Sheba to the RSPCA but refused permission for Vinnie to be taken.

Inspector Cooper said: “As I walked back down to the rear of the garden, Sheba was still outside all hunched up, although they had let Vinnie inside out of the cold.

“When she did walk she appeared weak and had little muscle coverage over her back end. I could see every rib and every vertebrae along her spine.

“I placed a lead over Sheba and she refused to walk so I bent down to pick her up. As I carried her to the van I could feel her still shivering and as I placed her in my van I provided her with a hot water bottle which she immediately curled up around.”

Sheba was taken to a vet who said she was suffering due to lack of food – there was no food in her stomach and she had no muscle.

Inspector Cooper later returned to Hazel Terrace with police, when officers seized Vinnie.

Vinnie was examined by a veterinary surgeon who stated that he was very underweight but had slightly more muscle mass to him than Sheba. He also had a skin condition probably caused by parasites.

Both dogs were taken to RSPCA’s clinic in Merthyr Tydfil where they were given parasite treatment.

Ownership of Vinnie has been transferred to the RSPCA, and he will now be rehomed. Sheba has already been successfully rehomed.

Sentencing | ordered to pay a total of £634 each. Disqualified from keeping dogs for five years



CONVICTED | badger baiter Wayne Mortimer, 47, from Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales – failed to take his two seriously injured dogs to the vet.

RSPCA inspector Simon Evans, accompanied by police officers, visited Mortimer’s home on 25 November 2021 following welfare concerns for his dogs.

They found five Patterdale terriers and a lurcher puppy living in purpose-built steel kennels in a shed in the garden, with one of the dogs visibly injured.

In his evidence to the court, Inspector Evans said: “I saw a small, black, Patterdale type terrier with a white patch on its chest. This terrier appeared to have an injury to its lower jaw and the wound looked to be yellow with pus.

“I looked inside and examined the injured dog more closely. The wound was extensive, covering the whole area beneath the dog’s chin reaching down to the throat.

“It had been completely stripped of skin and hair and was red raw and covered in sawdust shavings, making it look yellow. One of the other Patterdale terriers also had an injury to its lower lip and this too looked raw.”

Both dogs were seized by police and taken immediately for veterinary treatment by the RSPCA.

Both dogs had healed scars on the head and neck in multiple areas and additional scrapes and wounds which were only a few days old.

When Mortimer was interviewed by Inspector Evans on 6 December he told the officer the injuries had been caused by the dogs fighting.

He said he’d treated the wounds himself using disinfectant and antibiotics purchased off the internet but had been too frightened to take them to a vet as he was worried he might be suspected of using them to bait badgers.

He also told the inspector that the injury to Race had occurred about 12 months earlier following another fight with Jack, and the historic scarring to the dog’s face was as a result of bolting foxes on land controlled by a gamekeeper friend.

An independent veterinary expert said he believed the injuries were likely to have been caused by the powerful bite of a badger, which would have held the terriers in a “vice-like grip.”

He said: “The chin injuries sustained by the dogs are not consistent with having been caused by fighting with each other when taking into account the severity of the facial tissue damage and tissue loss.

“It is highly likely that these injuries were caused as a consequence of them fighting with a badger.”

Jack and Race are doing well in RSPCA care and the charity is looking for new homes for them. The other dogs seen at Mortimer’s property have since been rehomed.

Sentencing | 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. 40 hours of unpaid work; a total of £528 in costs and charges. Banned from keeping dogs for ten years but may appeal after five years.



CONVICTED | Dave Herring, 53, from #Sudbury, Suffolk – kicked a hedgehog with ‘considerable force’

Herring admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the hedgehog, by kicking the animal.

The incident was caught on camera and the footage was passed on to the RSPCA to investigate.

The video showed a man walking towards a house and putting something down in the porch area. He was then seen pulling the hedgehog from the porch area with his foot, and kicking it down the road.

Speaking after the case RSPCA Inspector Caroline Richardson, said: “Having reviewed video footage it was clear the hedgehog was kicked with considerable force.

“The final kick can clearly be heard on the camera footage.

“The hedgehog rolls at speed several metres, out of sight.

“An expert vet who examined the footage said the hedgehog would have suffered unnecessarily during this time and the suffering would have extended beyond the time of the kicking if an injury was caused.

“They believed the suffering caused was due to pain and fear.

“This was an incident which showed a clear disregard for a wild animal.”

Sentencing | fined £277 and ordered to pay £300 costs and a victim surcharge Of £34




RSPCA appeal for information after dead puppies found in Carlisle

The RSPCA is investigating after two dead puppies with severe head injuries were found dumped at the side of a river in the Carlisle area.

The spaniel puppies, aged about eight-10 weeks, were found near North View Cottage, Beaumont, by a member of the public who reported the matter to the RSPCA on Sunday, April 3.

Inspector Maryn Fletcher is now investigating and said the puppies – one black and one white – appeared to have suffered injuries consistent with them both being hit on the head with an instrument before they were dumped

He said: “Both puppies had wounds which suggest they had been hit over the head and suffered severe skull injuries and had heavy bleeding around their head and mouth.

“One of the puppies had a skin condition and the other had a bloated stomach. I believe they have come from a litter bred by an unscrupulous dealer who realised they had health issues and they were not prepared to pay for any treatment for them so decided to dispose of them in this horrific way.

“I am very keen to find the person who owned the puppies – who were not microchipped – and I am hoping someone may know who they belonged to.

“I also want to hear from anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area prior to the puppies being found at about 4pm.”

He added that a Black Ford van with red wheels had been seen in the area around this time and would like to trace the driver who may hold vital information.

He is also asking for motorists in the area to check their dash cam footage.

Anyone with information is asked to call the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018

The RSPCA works with local trading standards departments across the country to tackle the problem caused by unscrupulous puppy breeders and is calling on members of the public to do their research before buying a puppy



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