Dogs were kept in cages ‘well below basic welfare requirements’, court told as trial of The Pet Shop owner opens
- Credit: Archant
Dogs were stacked in cages up to three storeys high and some in darkness, a court heard at an animal welfare trial that opened today.
Rob Phipps, 36, of Elm Road, March, faces four welfare and one cruelty charge in relation to 34 dogs found in “caged, overcrowded unsuitable conditions” inside The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse in Commercial Road, March.
RSPCA inspectors seized the dogs when they visited the warehouse on February 27, last year.
Peterborough Magistrates’ Court was shown an 11-minute video of the conditions inside the warehouse at today’s opening where 17 dogs were crated side by side with natural light in one room at the warehouse.
But in a second room 17 dogs were stacked in cages up to three high in the pitch black. Urine dropped on to the animals in the cages below, the court heard, and four dogs suffered facial injuries where their cages were pushed closely together and they had been fighting.
Francesca Lewington, prosecuting said that one dog later lost an eye because the vets could not save it following infection from an untreated fight injury.
There was blood where dogs had been fighting, and some dogs had fresh excrement in their cage, the court heard.
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No dogs had water or food in their cages, the court heard, and some cages had two dogs inside.
In one cage, which was too small for two dogs, the only way the animals could rest was by lying on top of each other, the court heard.
A Jack Russell terrier was in a small cage with broken bars that had metal prongs sticking out.
Miss Lewington said: “There was a dramatic lack of space and a strong smell of urine and faeces. Some dogs could barely turn around.
“The cages were well below meeting basic welfare requirements.
“Fights were commonplace and veterinary advice was either not sought or not used.
“Antibiotics for one dog were found unopened by the till.”
Two dogs were given water by RSPCA inspectors and they drunk for two minutes, such was the intensity of their thirst, said Miss Lewington.
Giving evidence, RSPCA chief inspector Kat Parfitt told the court: “There were a few skinny dogs, there was a dog bleeding form the mouth where it had been trying to attack another dog.
“The dogs needed to be removed to ensure their welfare. In the second back room it was constant barking – you couldn’t hear yourself speak.”
Chief Insp Parfitt said the dogs were seized by police without a certificate from a vet, under Section 18(5) of the Animal Welfare Act, because her primary concern was for the condition of a Staffordshire bull terrier called Sally which could barely walk and was in pain.
Chief Insp Parfitt said her priority was to get Sally to a vet immediately.
The court was told by Phipps’ defence team that the dogs were kept in Savic crates which were not training or transit cages and had trays which caught excrement and urine.
The animals were kept in cages because Phipps said it was kinder and less stressful for dogs than in kennels “like the RSPCA where all you see is miserable dogs”. He said the military also kept their dogs in this way.
He said the cages were too small to leave food or water inside, because the dogs would just kick them over, so instead Phipps said he gave water when they were taken for walks by volunteers, the court heard.
Dogs were walked in the morning and given water five to six times each day. He claimed they were loose for two to three hours at a time and he preferred to put two dogs in one cage for company, the court heard.
Miss Lewington said Phipps denied that dogs could put their heads through the bars and fight, and said he had spent thousands of pounds in vets bills.
The court heard that Phipps had not taken a wage from JJ Rescue, an organisation he set up to save dogs that nobody else would have or dogs that other people considered a problem.
It also heard that Phipps stayed at the warehouse overnight to be with the dogs.
The trial continues and is expected to last three days.