Offers of help pour in to support Fenland pet rescue centre closed down suddenly and all 34 dogs removed by RSPCA
21:51 09 March 2014
The owner of a dog rescue centre says he is overwhelmed by the support he has received since the RSPCA took away 34 dogs in its care last Thursday.
“There was no paperwork or official written reason given; all we got was a receipt for 34 dogs like they were someone’s shopping,” said rescue centre boss Robert Phipps.
The RSPCA carried out the operation at The Pet Shop March Discount Warehouse in Commercial Road, March, where Mr Phipps and a team of volunteers have looked after dogs for about 18 months.
He was at the warehouse with volunteers when the joint RSPCA and Fenland District Council operation took place.
He said: “I was doing the morning clean when they charged in and scared the dogs. Our volunteers were in tears.
“The RSPCA took 34 dogs leaving four, two that were out of their crates and two that we’re in our isolation kennel. Surely if any animal cruelty was suggested they’d have taken the lot?
“We are yet another small dog rescue victimised by the RSPCA. Where were they when these dogs needed them and their owners phoned up asking for help or they were found stray and under-weight?
“We don’t believe in kennels as they’re out dated and stress the dogs out so all ours are crated or loose in packs and all are clean happy and healthy.
“There were no issues with animal welfare. The dogs were healthy.”
Mr Phipps is trying to find alternative premises where he can care for the dogs which are being looked after at an undisclosed location by the RSPCA.
He has been inundated with messages of support on Facebook and offers of timber and building materials.
He said: “The support has been amazing. It is nice to know that people value what we are trying to do to help the dogs, who often have been refused by the RSPCA.”
March businesswoman Debbie Smith has offered the former kart track in Creek Fen to be used as a site for kennels.
She said: “I have offered it for free until they get it sorted and up and running. Rob is a good guy he has a lot of support. I’m impressed by his commitment to those animals.
“The land is available to them – they’re desperate, and it is perfect. It is out of the way, it’s quiet and there are beautiful dog walks for the volunteers to take the animals out.”
She said it was now a case of looking into change of use with FDC to change it from kart track to kennels.
Fenland District Councillor Jan French pledged her support for the rescue centre and promised to work with Mr Phipps to possibly set up a not for profit organisation to buy a new venue and turn it into an animal sanctuary.
She said: “There are enough people who have shown their support, if not with money but with many skills to make this work.
“It could be a proper centre which belongs to the community.”
Volunteer dog walker Matthew Sawyer said: “I’m pretty gobsmacked by the whole thing. Rob took the dogs in off his own back and worked with them so they could be re-homed. I don’t understand why they have been taken away.”
Ali Adams, who has worked for Mr Phipps for two years, including a stint at the dog rescue centre, added: “It is ridiculous that they have taken the dogs away.
“Rob has put so much time, effort and money into helping them. when they arrive they are often problem, aggressive dogs but by the time they leave they would not hurt a fly.”
Mr Phipps said the issue over Commercial Road arose after he was told by FDC enforcement officer Bill Tilley on February 13 that he needed planning consent to run a pet rescue centre from a factory style unit.
Four days later, Mr Phipps received a notice from landlord Steve Emblen requesting all animals were removed with immediate effect.
Mr Phipps said: “FDC turned up at Commercial Road and rang our shop in town and told the staff they were going to try and force entry due to concerns over the dogs welfare.
“They came in and had a look round and took pictures. Then they proceeded to say we were not a rescue and we were in fact boarding all these dogs and therefore needed a licence,
“I explained we most certainly were a rescue and I have a large amount of vet bills to prove it.
“I reminded them I’d e-mailed them four times in January asking if we needed a licence as Cllr French, who has been very supportive, suggested it might be an issue. All these e-mails had been ignored.
“Then Mr Tilley said we couldn’t have the dogs here as the building did not have proper planning permission for it.
“I was told my landlord could apply for it but Mr Tilley doubted it would be granted so I asked him what we were supposed to do and I got no reply.
“They left and I e-mailed them to ask for clarification on the issues raised and what I should do to help comply, but this email was yet again ignored.
“Apparently our landlord Steve (Emblen) had been contacted by Mr Tilley and put pressure on to get rid of the dogs so he phoned the RSPCA and demanded they come to take the dogs away.
“First we knew of this was a letter from Mr Emblen dated February 17 stating that we must remove all animals with immediate effect.
“I explained to him that this was impossible and that these dogs had nowhere else to go so we’d have to look at other premises and move the business and the rescue.”
Mr Emblen, who runs LF Logistics, said his tenant of two years had broken his agreement.
He said: “I’m not against dogs. I have a labrador myself. I understand where Rob is coming from and what he’s trying to do but for me as a landlord he broke a tenancy agreement.
“He signed a document which said he would only use the property for trade or sale of pet food, animal food and storage.
“If he had told me at the start he wanted to turn the warehouse into a kennel I would not have agreed to it.
“For me it is a commercial space, not a kennel. I know the dogs were fed and walked but it is not the right environment for 30 to 40 dogs.
“I gave him a notice to remove the animals but he ignored me so FDC took over.”
An RSPCA spokesman said: “The RSPCA removed 34 dogs from a location in March because of concerns for their welfare following complaints from members of the public. The local council were also in attendance in regards to another issue.
“At present all animals are safe, well and being given vet attention where needed.”
An FDC spokesman said: “There are concerns over a number of issues concerning these premises but it would be wrong to comment further while investigations continue.”
JJ Rescue Canine and Rehab Dog Rescue Centre
Robert Phipps calls his centre JJ Rescue to care for dogs developing behaviour issues and helps them find new homes.
They take in unwanted dogs from other rescues, including strays who might otherwise be put to sleep.
A team of volunteers hold daily community walks and potential owners come along to meet dogs and help walk them.
Mr Phipps said: “Vets would contact us to take dogs that had come in to be put to sleep for behaviour issues that they knew I could help fix.
“Strays would be handed into us after hours and at weekends as no-one else wanted to know or would help.”
“We took in dogs from many people locally who could no longer care for their pet but were let down by other organisations when they’d contacted them for help and were told no best get your beloved pet put to sleep no matter how young, happy and friendly that dog might