A couple who imported 4,600 dogs from Romania and ran a disgusting, cramped and ‘inadequate’ rescue centre avoided jail, but were disqualified from keeping animals for five years.
As previously reported, 160 dogs and cats were rescued from unsuitable conditions, including cramped, overcrowded kennels where animals lived in their own faeces, when police and RSPCA officers raided the South Killingholme site in an intelligence-led operation in March 2018.
It was one of the largest ever operations by the RSPCA as more than 60 staff from multiple agencies worked through the day to remove 144 dogs and 16 cats. They were taken in by the RSPCA and Dogs Trust.
4Paws operated an unlicensed boarding kennels after their licence expired, and a veterinary clinic, but its main business was importing street dogs from Romania to rehome in the UK.
Officers removed 183 pet passports on the day of the warrant. Investigations revealed that the Fairbrothers had imported 4,600 dogs between January 2017 and March 2018.
The Fairbrothers also ran a vet clinic onsite which was found in a filthy state.
The investigation into 4Paws was led by the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU).
Jodie Fairbrother, 40, and Paul Fairbrother, 50, appeared at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, September 12 to be sentenced for a string of offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
At a previous hearing on August 2, Jodie pleaded guilty to six Section 4 offences of causing unnecessary suffering and four Section 9 offences of failing to meet the needs of animals in their care. Paul admitted three offences – one under Section 4 and two under Section 9.
Jodie was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and banned from keeping or trading in animals for five years.
Paul was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and also banned from keeping or trading animals for five years.
Both were ordered to pay £500 costs each and a £115 victim surcharge each.
Animals kept in awful conditions
The body of one deceased dog was found in the onsite clinic. It was later discovered the dog had distemper, a lethal viral disease.
Three further dogs had to be put to sleep, two of which had Brucella canis – a serious contagious disease that can be passed onto humans – and one which tested positive for distemper.
During the raid several animals were found kept in cramped kennels and cages with no access to food or water.
Officers found some runs with four or five large dogs living in cramped conditions, while others were kept in makeshift runs in corridors.
Several dogs also had untreated health conditions such as respiratory problems or ear infections or untreated wounds.
All of the animals had to be taken straight into quarantine and underwent a series of tests to check for numerous serious diseases. Others needed medical treatments for untreated conditions and problems.
Officers spent over a month trawling through six months’ worth of CCTV footage which showed a number of welfare offences.
- In one section the dog, who had been discovered dead by officers during the raid, was seen trembling in a cage
- The video showed that staff failed to give the dog any time outside of the cage or give her any food or water for three days
- Another video showed a cat being dropped off at the clinic by their owner with a leg wound. The cat is left in the carrier for two days and is given no food or water during this time, while the wound is also not tended to.
Rehoming the animals
All of the cats were signed over into RSPCA care by the Fairbrother.
A number of the dogs were signed over and many had been reserved by prospective owners or belonged to other organisations. Dogs were passed into their care and the rest remained in the care of charities while the case went through the court.
Most of the dogs and cats have now been rehomed. The judge issued a deprivation order on the five dogs who remain in RSPCA care awaiting rehoming so they can now find new homes.
Romanian shepherd Bear is looking for an experienced home. Four cheeky British bulldogs – Ginny, Sonny, Iris and Inca – are looking for patient owners who can give them time to adjust to their new homes.
RSPCA SOU Chief Inspector Ian Briggs said: “The kennel blocks were seriously overcrowded. Runs which, at an RSPCA site, would be home to one dog had been split into two with two or three dogs in one half, inside, and another two or three dogs in the other half, outside.
“One dog – a large Romanian shepherd called Bear – was in such a small kennel that he could barely lie down. He was extremely distressed and we had to sedate him to remove him from the site. We understand that he’d been there, in those conditions, for three years – and had only been out of his kennel three times.
“He’s now in RSPCA care and is coming on leaps and bounds. Thanks to the tireless work of staff and behaviour experts, his confidence is building and he’s beginning to trust people again.”