Court of Appeal increases sentences for puppy farm gang and vet

A Court of Appeal has increased the jail sentences of four men who were part of a puppy farming gang who made more than £2.5 million selling poorly dogs.

The men were part of a gang of fraudsters who imported puppies from Ireland before advertising them online as ‘home-bred’ and selling them to unsuspecting members of the public.

Many of the dogs sadly fell seriously ill and some even died shortly after they were sold.

The four men, Simon O’Donnell, Edward Stokes, Thomas Stokes and Thomas O’Donnell all appeared at the Court Of Appeal on 19 July after the Attorney General applied to appeal the ‘unduly lenient’ sentences they were given earlier this year.

Simon O’Donnell was originally sentenced to three years in prison and disqualified from keeping dogs for life, his sentence has been increased to four years in prison.

Thomas Stokes who was jailed for three years and disqualified from keeping dogs for life, has had his sentence increased to four years and eight months in prison.

Edward Stokes was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years and a lifetime ban on keeping dogs. His sentence was also increased to four years and eight months in prison.

Vet Daniel Doherty, operated two My Vet surgeries in Uxbridge, West London where he conspired with the gang to commit fraud by falsifying vaccination cards to help to sell the pups.

He was originally sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months. This week his sentence was increased to three and a half years.

RSPCA Inspector, Kirsty Withnall. Who led the investigation dubbed Operation Adder, said: “The Attorney General applied to appeal the sentences that three of the gang members and the vet received as being unduly lenient.

“The puppy trade causes serious suffering and this case involved many sick and dying puppies and resulted in heartbreak for unsuspecting owners.”

RSPCA officers estimated that the network of dealers were selling puppies for an average £500 each, making at least £2,548,500 by selling 5,097 puppies during a five-year period – although inspectors suspect there were many more.

Evidence revealed that 4,689 puppies were taken to My Vet 24/7 by the gang between 23 March 2011 and 10 May 2017 for their vaccinations, which meant the vet pocketed at least £75,000.