Sick trade in cruelly bred pups

Evening Herald, 28/05/1996

It’s the nightmare cruelty case which has horrified every dog-lover in the country.

  Twenty-two dogs died in gruesome conditions in a shed in Crumlin. But all over Ireland, many cruel breeders are turning pedigree dogs into profit machines.  The bitches are covered every time they go in season and forced them to have litter after litter on the country’s growing number of puppy farms.  Up to 25,000 dogs are being shipped out of the country every year to export markets around Europe, often with little regard for the animals’ welfare.

  The outcry which followed the weekend discovery of 23 little Yorkshire and Irish terriers starving to death has led to calls for new legislation to be introduced.  Animal lovers have expressed concern for the dogs being bred like battery hens in sheds and outhouses in towns and cities as well as rural areas.

  Now they are calling on the Department of Agriculture to introduce tighter controls to ensure that the pets are properly bred and looked after by their owners.

  Twenty-two dogs, emaciated and disease-ridden, had to be destroyed. They had been kept in conditions which hardened officers of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said were the worst they had ever seen. Vets were able to save the life of just one little terrier.  The DSPCA has warned that unscrupulous dealers are producing disturbed and sometimes dangerous dogs through their puppy farms. Because of inbreeding and the conditions they are living in, the animals are often maladjusted and suffering from a range of abnormalities including Dog Rage Syndrome – a condition where dogs suffer violent fits.

  “You can open a puppy farm in your bathroom if you want. There is nothing to stop you,” says Therese Cunningham of the DSPCA. “It is time for legislation to be introduced so that dealers are forced to keep their animals in adequately designed kennels with enough heat, light and food.”

The pure-bred pups could fetch up to £200 each when exported to Europe. The main markets are in Britain, France, Spain and Italy.

  Therese advises people who are considering buying pups to make sure they see the entire litter with the mother. 

  “That is how you will know if they are being well cared for,” she says.

Tony O’Neill, secretary of the Irish Kennel Club, says he was horrified at the way the animals in Crumlin were treated. The IKC has a code of ethics for its members, setting down strict guidelines on the treatment of dogs.

  An elderly Cork man, due before Mallow District court in two weeks for sentencing after pleading guilty to cruelly ill-treating dogs on his puppy farm, says he has cleaned up his act.  Michael O’Connell (70) from the Island, Burfort, in Mallow says his dogs are now in luxury housing after he forked out £6,000 for new kennels.  The Cork puppy farmer pleaded guilty to the charges last October after an inspector for the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found the dogs living in “atrocious conditions”.

  Mr O’Connell was given time to build proper kennel to house dogs, and if they are deemed satisfactory, the District Judge may apply the Probation Act on June 11 when Mr O’Connell is due to return to court.

  Yesterday, O’Connell slammed the conditions the Dublin terriers were kept in as “savage”.

  “Those dogs were starved,” he said. “No one should be allowed keep dogs like that. It was something savage.”

Mr O’Connell kept Yorkshire terriers in five timber boxes with wooden lids, with very little light and no access to water, but says his dogs were in excellent condition.

  “If they weren’t, no-one would buy them,” he insisted. “They did not need access to water – they got soup and milk. They were exercised out in the yard twice a day and would have been able to get water there if they had wanted it. But I admit the boxes were a bit small.”

He also slammed as “rubbish” claims that he and other breeders could make £32,000 a year with 40 dogs. “The pups sell for about £80 each. Some of the bitches have one litter a year, some do not,” he said. “It’s cheap talk. Sometimes I have only six or eight pups a year.”

  The O’Connell case was one of the first involving puppy farms, but more prosecutions are expected.

Why badly traumatised Sparky will need psychiatric help

Sparky, the little terrier rescued by DSPCA officers from a puppy farm hellhole, will survive but he will need a psychiatrist.  Garrett Freyne, the vet who saved Sparky’s life, says the year-old dog survived because he was younger and stronger than the others. Twenty-two Yorkshire and Irish terriers had to be destroyed after DSPCA officers found them starving and disease-ridden in a shed in the Crumlin area over the weekend.

  Sparky, as he has been named by the veterinary nurses taking care of him, was rescued on Monday morning when the DSPCA officers returned to Crumlin to look after the 60 pigeons housed in the attic.  The dog was also emaciated and was covered in mange, lice and fleas. “He will live but he is going to have major problems,” says Garrett.

  “When he was found he was terrified. He has been in a crazy situation. What he really needs is a psychiatrist. We do not know yet if we will be able to put him with a family with children. We found him hiding in the dirt and squalor. He was terrified of people. He isn’t house trained and we are not sure how he will adapt.”

  But the vet promises to give him plenty of love and attention over the coming weeks. He is to be fed a special diet to build up his strength. Then they will try to find a proper home for him.

  Hardened DSPCA officers were horrified at what they saw in the Crumlin house over the weekend. One bitch lay dying on the ground being picked at by the other animals.  Some were in cages stacked on top of each other and urinating on the dogs below. They had no food and no access to water. They all had mange, lice and fleas.  Water seeped down the walls and dropped from electric cables in the shed, which John Dunne of the DSPCA described as a “filthy hothouse.” It appears that the dogs were simply abandoned.

  Irish Kennel Club secretary, Tony O’Neill, say: “I was appalled at what I saw of the case. I’m glad it has been found out, but there is no real way of knowing who is involved in unethical dealing.”

  The IKC, which has some 10,000 members, is campaigning to have stricter laws introduced to address the problems.