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Owner of Aberdeenshire puppy farm convicted of cruelty offences

Owner of Aberdeenshire puppy farm convicted of cruelty offences
  • Following a Scottish SPCA investigation, Frank James convicted of animal cruelty offences
  • The animal charity removed almost 100 dogs from an Aberdeenshire farm in November 2017

A man who intensively bred hundreds of puppies at an Aberdeenshire farm has been convicted of animal cruelty offences following an investigation by ourselves.

Frank James, 53, of Duncan Street, Banff, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs, ferrets and rabbits under Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. He was also found guilty under Section 24 for failing to ensure the welfare of the same animals at Aberdeen Sheriff Court today (Friday 19 July).

A co-accused, Michelle Wood, 29, of Berrymuir Road, Macduff, was also found guilty of the same charges.

In November 2017, our Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Police Scotland raided East Mains of Ardlogie Farm near Fyvie in Aberdeenshire. We removed 105 animals in total, including 87 dogs, the youngest of which was just a few days old. The animals were taken to our animal rescue and rehoming centres for treatment and rehabilitation.

One of our undercover investigator said, “We believe this was the largest scale puppy farming operation in Scotland. The conditions these dogs were being kept in were absolutely disgraceful. It fell far below the minimum standard in terms of animal welfare and, given the environment and sheer volume of puppies, it was immediately evident these were not being kept as pets and the premises was effectively a battery farm for pups.

“Our investigation revealed dogs on site were being intensively bred with little to no regard for their welfare. On site, we found a burnt out van which had dog carcasses within, suggesting this was a means of disposing dead pups.” 

James first came to the attention of the Scottish SPCA in March 2013, when an investigation led to more than 70 dogs being seized from the same address. Inspectors found cattle sheds packed with breeding bitches and dogs suffering with lice, skin sores, matted hair and cysts on their paws due to the floor being covered in faeces.

Following the investigation, James’ and two of his relatives plead guilty to welfare offences in October 2014. Frank James and his brother were banned from keeping more than two dogs for the next three years.

Based on reports to the charity’s animal helpline, we believe James’ flouted this ban to continue selling puppies.

Our undercover investigator said, “We acted swiftly and reopened our investigation in to James’ when we received numerous reports of puppies who were either becoming unwell or dying within days of being purchased by unsuspecting members of the public. Much like the previous investigation, the squalid conditions we found these pups being housed in showed a total disregard for their wellbeing.

“Sadly, when dogs are bred in appalling conditions, it is very common for them to develop serious illnesses, medical conditions or even to die within weeks of being born.”

For the Scottish SPCA, providing refuge for animals whilst court cases are ongoing is a massive welfare and resource issue. To allow the animals to find homes more quickly, we decided to pursue a civil action to rehome the seized dogs before the court case concluded. This landmark case was successful and resulted in all of the surviving animals being rehomed.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said, “Whilst every animal in our care receives all the love and attention in the world, it is not beneficial welfare-wise to spend months or even years in a rescue and rehoming centre until criminal proceedings conclude.”

“In our centres, care costs an average of £15 per dog a day so picking up the pieces from breeders who prioritise profit over welfare puts a massive strain on our resources. Another case saw us rack up costs of £440,000 as we cared for 45 dogs seized from an illegal breeder. Thankfully, the decision to pursue a civil action in this instance means many of these animals found their forever homes long ago.”

The SIU team at the Scottish SPCA spearhead Operation Delphin, a multi-agency taskforce designed to bring illegal puppy traders to justice. It is supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council, ISPCA, RSPCA, USPCA, DSPCA, Stena Line, Police Scotland and others. Disrupting the multimillion pound industry is one of the Society’s main priorities, and its #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign has received widespread public and cross-party political support.

Mike added, “The quickest way to halt the supply of illegally bred pups is for public demand to fall.”

People can sign the #SayNoToPuppyDealers’ pledge here: