5:27pm Monday 7th October 2013
By Tui Benjamin
A FATHER and son who kept an illegal puppy farm with cramped, overcrowded and dirty conditions have been banned from keeping dogs for 10 years.
Jeffery Speakman, aged 66, of Bentley Hall Farm, Walshaw, and 22-year-old Richard Speakman, of Fern Street, Ramsbottom, were sentenced at Bury magistrates court on Monday after pleading guilty to 11 animal cruelty offences.
In May, a joint RSPCA and Greater Manchester Police raid seized 137 dogs from Bentley Hall Farm because of concerns for their safety. They found many thirsty, in pain and suffering from untreated medical conditions.
In a hearing last month, the Speakmans admitted two counts of causing suffering to a protected animal and nine counts of failing to ensure animal welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
On Monday, Jeffrey Speakman also admitted two new offences relating to three puppies with an untreated gastro-intestinal virus which were discovered at his farm in August. One of the puppies died.
RSPCA prosecutor Anna McDonald said the Speakmans had failed to provide a suitable environment for 62 dogs and failed to provide an adequate supply of fresh drinking water for 40 dogs. They had failed to protect 23 dogs from pain, suffering, injury and disease due to their beds having sharp edges and failed to meet the needs of 13 dogs to display normal behaviour.
A chocolate Labrador, which died from organ failure after a womb infection led to septicaemia, was discovered hidden at the bottom of a bed filled with straw, and had not been seen by a vet.
Five counts related to the injuries of specific dogs, including Labradors with eye, ear and teeth problems, a male Malamute with a gastro-intestinal infection, and a tri-coloured collie which was lame.
Four more collies had been cordoned off and were living in a dark building around the back of the farm because they had not been sold and were so aggressive they had to be put down by the RSPCA.
The Speakmans also admitted breeding and keeping dogs without a licence after licences granted by Bury Council were not renewed after 2011.
They bred 400 to 500 puppies a year — selling around 20 each week — and in a 14-month period took around £106,000 from buyers, charging around £250 per animal.
Despite this, Jeffrey Speakman said the business was not making a profit and he was significantly in debt, with a £2,500 overdraft and two credit cards each with a debt of £10,000.
The Speakmans, who also keep horses, ponies and cattle on their farm, said they spent £1,000 per week on caring for the puppies and £500 each week on food.
Jeffrey Speakman told the court: “I have kept animals since I was 10 years old and have never knowingly neglected anything in my life.”
Defence solicitor, Peter Leather, said the Speakmans had sold countless healthy puppies and had repeat custom, with people coming back to buy a second or third puppy from their farm.
Mr Leather added: “There is no doubt they will have learned lessons from this. They have to accept they did not reach the required standards.”
When the RSPCA seized the dogs in May some exhibited extremely fearful behaviour, pressing themselves against walls and dropping to the ground submissively when approached.
Magistrate Albert Yates said: ““It is clear to us you put profit before the care of these animals and you neglected them and caused them unnecessary suffering.
“For that there is no excuse.”
As well as the ban, the Speakmans were each sentenced to four months in prison suspended for 12 months, 200 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs of £500.
All of the dogs were eventually signed over to the RSPCA, with most now rehomed.
After the case, RSPCA inspector Jason Bowles said: “Some of the dogs were six years old and have been used as nothing more than breeding machines, producing litter after litter of puppies.
“Buying from a place like this, from people like this, is to finance misery.”
A spokesman for Bury Council said: “The farm has not complied with the licensing regime for some time, despite our repeated efforts to get them to follow the regulations.
“We would urge anyone who is considering breeding dogs to contact us immediately and make sure they are properly licensed.”
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