Couple disqualified from keeping animals

RSPCA and police raided 4Paws site in Lincolnshire in February 2018 and removed 160 animals from unsuitable conditions.

A couple who imported 4,600 dogs from overseas over a 15-month period were today handed suspended prison sentences and disqualified from keeping animals after police and RSPCA officers removed 160 animals from their rescue centre and veterinary clinic in Lincolnshire.

Jodie Fairbrother and Paul Fairbrother appeared in Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 12 September to be sentenced for a string of offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

At a previous hearing on August 2, Jodie Fairbrother 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. At the same hearing, Paul Fairbrother admitted three offences; once Section 4 and two Section 9s.

Jodie Fairbrother was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and banned from keeping or trading in animals for five years.

Paul Fairbrother was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and was also banned form keeping or trading in animals for five years. Both were ordered to pay £500 costs each and a £115 victim surcharge each.

RSPCA officers joined Humberside Police as they executed a warrant at 4Paws in South Killingholme on 22 March 2018.

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.

In one of the largest ever operations by the RSPCA, more than 60 staff from multiple agencies worked throughout the day to remove a total of 160 animals – 144 dogs and 16 cats, which were then taken in by the RSPCA and Dogs Trust.

Sadly, 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.

The investigation into 4Paws was led by the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU). The officer who led the probe – who cannot be named for operational reasons, said: “We launched an investigation after intelligence from a number of sources that dogs were being imported from Romania without the proper health or biosecurity checks.

“We were also told that the animals were being kept in wholly unsuitable and inadequate conditions at the 4Paws site in Lincolnshire.”

When officers raised the property, they found many animals being 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.

Many of the 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 disease while other needed medical treatments for untreated conditions and problems.

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. They also ran a vet clinic onsite which was found in a filthy state.

Head of SOU Grainne Casey, said: “Importing street dogs from abroad to rehome here in the UK brings about many challenges, many of which were evident from this operation. Many of these dogs had not had the necessary legal checks they needed to enter the country, meaning they had the potential to be carrying serious diseases such as rabies.

“In fact, two of the dogs removed from the site had to be put to sleep as they tested positive for a severe, zoonotic disease called Brucella canis, which can be passed on to humans, while a third was suffering form distemper. As well as major health risks these dogs posed to the general public and wider dog population, many of the animals in 4Paws’ care were not having their basic needs met while under their care.

“It was an extremely upsetting situation to see these dogs – who’d already been through so much in their lives – living in such squalor.”

All the cats were signed over into the RSPCA care by the Fairbrothers. A number of the dogs were signed over and many had been reserved by prospective owner or belonged to other organisations.

A lot of painstaking work was done by the RSPCA to find the owners/adopters and pass the dogs into their care. The rest remained in the care of the charities while the case went to court.

Most of the dogs and cats have now been rehomed – including a number of dogs that were handed over to their owners who’d already placed deposits on them via 4Paws.

The judge issues 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 with a family who are used to large, guarding dogs while 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.

If you would like more information about any of the dogs in RSPCA care you can visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet.