Fenland pet shop owner accused of animal welfare offences tells court he could not ignore a dog in need

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse, in March.

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse, in March. - Credit: Archant

A pet shop owner “couldn’t happily see dogs left out on the street or put down for no reason”, he told a court today.

Rob Phipps, 36, of Elm Road, March, faces four welfare and one cruelty charge in relation to 34 dogs kept inside The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse in Commercial Road, March. The trial, into its third day, is taking place at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

RSPCA inspectors seized the dogs when they visited the warehouse on February 27, last year.

Giving evidence this morning, Phipps said he could not ignore a dog in need.

He said he interrupted his Christmas dinner to pick up a dog in Peterborough who was going to be left out in the streets after attacking another dog.

Phipps told the court he was willing for some of the dogs to be rehomed but he could not get a commitment from the RSPCA that dogs would not be put to sleep.

He said: “I raised the issue of rehoming the dogs because it’s for the best for the dogs. The RSPCA has more money and better facilities. If we can get dogs rehomed that’s the whole point of the exercise.

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“I asked the inspector if he was willing to take on any of the dogs but he said the RSPCA would not find a no-put-to-sleep agreement.”

Phipps told the court that during a visit from an RSPCA inspector, in January last year, he was not told he was expected to improve conditions in the warehouse.

He said: “They said they didn’t agree with the crates but it was light-hearted. They had a look around and seemed happy.

“The dogs were healthy, there was no mention of wrongdoing.”

Phipps said he would rather have dogs in crates than in kennels “where they are not happy and spinning”.

He told the court the dogs would normally be in crates overnight from 10pm-8am. In the morning they would be let out for water and fed.

Dogs would be walked two or three times a day and the crates would be cleaned every day, Phipps told the court.

He estimated he had spent thousands of pounds on vet bills “and if I had any concerns about a dog I would call the vet straight away and get them treatment”.

Phipps said the dogs were getting an appropriate amount of food and exercise and were well hydrated.

Only empty crates were stacked three high, he told the court. Crates with dogs in them would be stacked two high at most.

If there were two dogs in the same cage, it was because they were brother and sister and “could not be separated due to their level of attachment”.

Prosecuting, Francesca Lewington said Phipps had taken on more dogs than he could cope with.

She said: “I’m not suggesting you set out to do harm to any dogs, I’m sure you meant to do a good thing. But you took on more dogs than you could handle.

“You put them in cages that were too small for anything other than the shortest period of time. The dogs were in cages without water for long periods of day and night. This scenario was patently not adequate for the dogs.”

The case continues – with a verdict expected later today.

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