March Pet Shop owner Rob Phipps banned from keeping dogs for 18 months after appeal

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps - Credit: Archant

March Pet Shop owner Robert Phipps has been disqualified from keeping dogs for 18 months following a court appearance today (Thursday) in Peterborough.

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse. Rob Phipps.

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse. Rob Phipps. - Credit: Archant

The disqualification follows an appeal hearing against a court sentencing in February this year when Phipps was found guilty of three animal welfare charges:

• Between January 6 2014 and February 28 2014 at Commercial Road premises he failed to meet the needs for a suitable environment for 34 dogs.

• Between the same dates at the Commercial Road premises he failed to meet the needs of 34 dogs by failing to provide an appropriate supply of fresh drinking water.

• And also he failed to meet the needs of one dog because it was housed in such circumstances that it was able to fight through the cage bars.

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The court heard the RSPCA was given information that Phipps, who ran JJ Rescue, was keeping dogs in cramped conditions in cages at his Commercial Road warehouse and they were obliged to investigate.

What they found were two smallish rooms each housing 17 dogs in metal cages. One room was a closed internal space without fresh air or natural light.

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Video evidence shows dog crates stacked on top of each other, some three cages high.

Cages were pushed up to each other.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs. - Credit: Archant

Phipps, 36, was called to swear on oath that he no longer owns any dogs, amid prosecution suggestions that he still has 11.

Recorder Ian Glen warned Phipps it would be a ‘very serious’ matter if he made a false statement on oath.

RSPCA chief inspector Mark Thompson said: “The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs who were kept in crates stacked on top of each other in a warehouse.

“There were serious concerns for their welfare, but despite several visits and a lot welfare advice the conditions of these dogs did not improve and the advice was not followed. We then attended along with the police and a vet in February 2014 when police took the dogs and put them in RSPCA care.”

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse, Commercial Road, March.

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

In defence Joe Hingston said: “Mr Phipps’ passion is for dogs from vulnerable backgrounds. This is a lesson learned for Mr Phipps; proceedings have taken a great toll on him and closely brought his responsibilities into sharp focus.”

Recorder Ian Glen said: “We’re quite satisfied that your heart was in the right place, but we think a breathing space will do you some good. In order that you can come up with a business plan and get your act together in the care of your dogs.”

As well as the disqualification Phipps was ordered to pay £2,000 in court costs - £1,000 for the earlier appearance in February and £1,000 for today’s proceedings.

He was also ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs. - Credit: Archant

A ban from keeping dogs for three years was reduced to an 18 month ban.

The court heard the kennelling costs to the RSPCA for the 34 dogs seized in the raid totalled £136,940 from February 2014 to the present day - which will come out of the charity’s funds.

Two dogs have since been re-homed and the court handed the remaining 32 dogs over to the RSPCA.

Phipps, who now lives above the Pet Shop in Station Road, after being forced to sell his home, was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work in February and the court heard he had completed those hours.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs.

The RSPCA was called in late 2013 with concerns about the dogs. - Credit: Archant

They also heard that a dog living at the Pet shop belonged to Andy Hardy and three others were living with Phipps’ mother.

THE HEARING IN FEBRUARY

Phipps appealed following the hearing in February where deputy district judge Boswell said: “This man had the very best of intentions but simply took on more than he could handle.

“However, this is a serious case. As an experienced dog handler he should have known that keeping dogs in those conditions was wholly unacceptable.

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps - Credit: Archant

“Out of your sheer desire to take in dogs to re-home them, you kept your eyes closed to the conditions they were being kept in.”

The court heard that the dogs were kept in crates overnight without access to water.

Some cages had two dogs inside.

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

A view of the cages at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps

A view of the cages at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps - Credit: Archant

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

One dog suffered facial injuries where their cages were pushed closely together and they were fighting.

One dog later lost an eye because the vets could not save it following infection for a fight injury.

There was blood where dogs had been fighting and some dogs had excrement in their cage.

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps

Two of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps - Credit: Archant

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

He estimated he had spent thousands of pounds on vet bills to ensure dogs got the appropriate care.

The case this week heard that vet fees from February 2014 to the present day totalled £947.

During that hearing he was found not guilty of three charges including failing to maintain an appropriate body condition for three dogs, and failing to administer medication to a dog.

One of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps

One of the dogs found at the warehouse run by Rob Phipps - Credit: Archant

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse. Rob Phipps with Winston and Xena.

The Pet Shop Discount Warehouse. Rob Phipps with Winston and Xena. - Credit: Archant

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