Puppy dealers jailed after making £35,000 a week selling sick imported dogs

Three people thought to have earned up to £35,000 a week by importing and selling sick and dying puppies to heartbroken buyers have been jailed and banned from keeping animals for life, after a major RSPCA investigation.

Peter Jones, Julian King and Grace Banks used numerous names, fake homes and even set up their own ‘pedigree registration’ company to con buyers who thought they were buying happy and healthy puppies that had been raised in a home environment.

The reality was that many puppies were sick and suffering from disease, while the bodies of dead puppies were dumped in buckets left in their vehicles.

District Judge James Prowse said the defendants have deliberately lied about the origins of the puppies they sold to unsuspecting members of the public.

He said all three treated living creatures as nothing more than a commodity and they did anything in their power to try to maximise their profit.

He jailed King for six months, while Jones and Banks will serve five months in custody.

Both Jones and King breached their 10-year bans on keeping dogs after previously being successfully prosecuted by the RSPCA for animal cruelty offences.

King must pay £2,500 costs, Jones will pay £2,100 and Banks must pay £4,500.

All three have now been banned from keeping any animal for the rest of their lives.

Details of the five year investigation – named Operation Pagan – by the RSPCA’s special operations unit, along with Greater Manchester Police and the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) can only be revealed, after case against the three defendants concluded at Manchester Magistrates’ Court today (9.10.15).

Footage taken by covert RSPCA officers shows puppies being delivered from Ireland to ‘holding’ kennels at the rear of a house in Stockport, seconds before police and RSPCA inspectors executed a warrant and arrest the defendants.

Jones is seen attempting to escape by climbing over a fence and running away, before being apprehended by police officers who tackled him to the ground.

The RSPCA’s investigation revealed Banks, King and Jones:

  • received weekly deliveries of puppies imported via ferry from the Republic of Ireland
  • kept puppies at a ‘holding’ address in Stockport, before selling them via a network of rented residential properties
  • used a variety of different names
  • lied to buyers, telling them the puppies for sale had been bred in a homely, family environment and were the first litter
  • set up their own company through which they provided buyers with glossy ‘Kennel Registration’ folders containing false paperwork
  • used more than 30 mobile telephones, each used for selling specific breeds of puppy, to avoid confusion when contacted by buyers
  • dumped the bodies of dead puppies in wheelie bins and a car

RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the special operations unit, believes the investigation is the biggest of its kind by the charity. He said it has uncovered the deception by dealers and the huge amounts of money they are making from selling sick and suffering puppies to unsuspecting members of the public.

He said: “From the number of puppies they appear to have been selling, and the prices those puppies were being sold for, we can estimate that these people were making anywhere in the region of £35,000 in cash a week.

“That is the sort of money people hear about footballers or film stars getting paid, but they were making it by importing and selling sick and suffering animals.

“They left a trail of broken hearted people in their wake. People who handed over their money in good faith for what they had been told would be a happy and healthy new member of the family.

“Instead, what many were left with was a huge vet bill and the devastation of seeing a much loved pet go through the agony of disease and sickness.

“This case has lifted the lid on the levels of deceit these people will go to in order to make money without any consideration for the sickness and suffering of the puppies they were selling.”

The three defendants all used several names to deceive buyers and to dodge suspicion based on any previous complaints made by people who had bought sick puppies from them.

Grace Banks – whose birth name was Leah Rogers, but who was commonly know as Lilly Cooper – also used the names Holly Saxon and Sarah Connor.

Her brother Julian King – whose birth name was Alec Rogers – also used the alias Thomas Spencer.

His childhood friend Peter Jones – whose birth name was Aneirin Skully – has also been known as George Cooper, Marco Emme and Michael Emme. He also used the nickname ‘Nye’.

It was in November 2012 when the RSPCA’s special operations unit joined officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) when warrants were carried out at properties on Marple Road and Hall Street, timed to coincide with the weekly delivery of puppies from Ireland.

They discovered 87 live puppies, including Yorkshire terriers, huskies, West Highland terriers, pomeranians, Labradors, beagles, shih tzus, French bulldogs, cockapoos and more. The average advertised price for these puppies at the time was approximately £600 each.

The bodies of four dead Yorkshire terrier puppies were found at Marple Road – one in a wheelie bin outside, two in a plastic bucket in the footwell of a car parked on the driveway and one in the utility room, which was still in the same pen as a live puppy.

Within a week of the RSPCA and GMP warrants, Banks had taken over the tenancy agreement of the Marple Road property from King and Jones and began selling puppies using the new company name Lilly’s Puppy Boutique.

The RSPCA continued to receive complaints from members of the public who had bought sick puppies from Banks.

Another warrant was carried out at the address in June 2013 by GMP, RSPCA and the police’s North East Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART).

A further 50 dogs were seized along with several mobile phones with dog breed initials stuck to the backs, Kennel Registration document and more than £6,000 cash.

Banks previously admitted offences between 13 June 2012 and 12 June 2013 in which she failed to protect more than 1,200 puppies from pain, suffering and disease by failing to implement proper health screening and disease control. She also previously admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a number of sick puppies that she had sold to members of the public.

Jones admitted failing to protect 835 puppies from pain, suffering and disease by failing to implement proper health screening between 13 June 2012 and 28 November 2012, as well as breaching his ban on keeping dogs.

King was found guilty of failing to protect 835 puppies from  pain, suffering and disease by failing to implement proper health screening, breaching his ban on keeping dogs and causing unnecessary suffering to four dead Yorkshire terrier puppies found at the Marple Road property.

Evidence given by vet Dr David Martin during King’s trial suggested the four dead Yorkshire terrier puppies had died from starvation over a prolonged period of time.

The RSPCA has now rehomed the puppies that were seized during the investigation, after providing the required treatment and care to those which were sick.

Case footage taken during the warrant at Marple Road in November 2012, showing the puppies delivered to the defendants, dead puppies found at the address, Jones jumping the fence and trying to run away from police and the paraphenalia connected to the offences – is available to download here: http://bit.ly/1Nta3IG

Case photos of puppies taken during the warrant at Marple Road in June 2013 are available to download here: http://bit.ly/1FW6qJ0

Stories from people who purchased sick puppies from the defendants are available from the RSPCA press office by contacting 0300 123 0244 or emailing press@rspca.org.uk