Father and son admit running illegal puppy farm in Walshaw
A FATHER and son have pleaded guilty to keeping dogs in cramped, overcrowded and dirty conditions on an illegal puppy farm in Walshaw.
Jeffery Speakman, aged 66, of Bentley Hall Farm and 22-year-old Richard Speakman, of Fern Street, Ramsbottom, admitted 11 animal welfare offences at Bury magistrates court on Tuesday.
In May, a joint RSPCA and Greater Manchester Police raid seized 136 dogs from Bentley Hall Farm because of concerns for their safety — and found many thirsty, in pain and suffering from untreated medical conditions.
A chocolate Labrador which died from organ failure after a womb infection led to septicaemia was discovered hidden at the bottom of a bed filled with straw.
The Speakmans admitted two counts of causing suffering to a protected animal and nine counts of failing to ensure animal welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
RSPCA prosecutor Anna McDonald said the Speakmans had failed to provide a suitable environment for 62 dogs and failing to provide an adequate supply of fresh drinking water for 40 dogs.
The pair also admitted to failing to protect 23 dogs from pain, suffering, injury and disease due to their beds having sharp edges and failing to meet the needs of 13 dogs to display normal behaviour.
Five counts related to the injuries of specific dogs, including Labradors with eye, ear and tooth problems, a male Malamute with a gastro-intestinal infection and a tri-coloured collie which was lame.
The Speakmans had continued breeding and selling 400 to 500 puppies a year from the farm despite their licence expiring 20 months before.
The Bentley Hall Farm premises were granted licences by Bury Council between 2009 and 2011 but a three-month temporary licence issued in summer 2011 was not renewed.
The Speakmans’ defence lawyer, Mr Peter Leather, said the animals were kept vaccinated and £1,000 per week was spent on their food.
Jeffrey Speakman, who has run a farm all through his adult life, also keeps 13 horses including foals, 13 cows and five calves.
The dogs seized were looked after at RSPCA centres across the North of England and have since made full recoveries, with most already rehomed.
Chairman of the bench John Worthington adjourned the case for a full probation report.
Under the sentencing guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act, both father and son could be jailed for up to 51 weeks or fined up to £20,000.
After the hearing RSPCA Inspector Jason Bowles said: “Public visiting Bentley Hall Farm only saw the puppies, but the conditions these adult dogs had to live in for most of their lives were atrocious.
“When we entered that shed the noise, the smell, the barking was just overwhelming — but happily that misery has now ended.
“Puppy farms are cruelty on a massive scale and anyone who buys a puppy from one of these outfits is financing this.
“People who are not normally cruel to animals are not thinking about where their new puppy has come from, and this needs to change.
“Puppies from these farms can also grow up with unusual aggression because they have not been properly socialised, which can be dangerous for the family they are coming in to.”
Inspector Bowles said dogs on the Speakmans’ farm were not given the basics of walks, exercise and human company.
He advised prospective puppy owners to always buy from a registered breeder where both parents can be viewed with the litter and to be wary of internet ads and “middle men” who offer to meet by roads or in lay-bys.
The Speakmans will return to court for sentencing on October 7.
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