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Shocking puppy farm scandal exposed

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A SHOCKING BBC Wales documentary screened on Monday night (Sept 30) laid bare the extent of the puppy farming scandal in West Wales.

This newspaper has repeatedly reported on the cruelty of puppy farming and the Lucy’s Law campaign and is not surprised by the content of the BBC Wales Investigates programme, anchored by Wyre Davies.

With the resources at its disposal, BBC Wales was able to dig deeper into links between breeders, vets, and how licensed premises are permitted to keep open despite serious animal welfare issues.

SYSTEMIC FAILURES IN ANIMAL WELFARE

One veterinary practises, Towy Vets of Carmarthen, was shown to have listed a dog as fit for breeding even though it also recorded it as dead. Animals as young as three months old were also shown as ready for breeding.

A breeder based in Carmarthenshire, Alun Douch, alleged that he had administered the parvo-virus vaccine to animals himself, having bought it from Towy Vets.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon rules provides that a dog can only be vaccinated after a medical inspection by a qualified vet.

The medical records for the parvo vaccine’s administration must have been lacking as Mr Douch later sold a puppy to a Swansea woman which had to be destroyed because it suffered from the highly contagious and lethal disease.

When the dog’s buyer contacted the breeder, Alun Douch of Tywi Vale, Nantgaredig, she alleged that Mr Douch offered to administer antibiotics to the animal.

A Council inspection document revealed that there was an ongoing problem with parvo-virus at Mr Douch’s breeding establishment.

The same document-related that an inspector had seen Mr Douch kick a dog during the inspection.

Mr Douch continued holding a licence in spite of that incident.

In a statement to the BBC, solicitors acting for Mr Douch denied ‘any cruelty to any animal’.

An expert panel assembled by the BBC which examined the cases used in the programme expressed serious concerns about animal health and welfare and questioned the rigour of the inspection regime and enforcement.

The BBC report that a senior vet – Mike Jessop – who is brought in by local authorities to advise on welfare issues, told the broadcaster there were clear examples where some professional colleagues have been “found wanting”.

He said he would be making a referral to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons regarding the evidence in the programme.

In a statement on its website, Towy Vets said: ‘In relation to the BBC Wales Investigates television programme broadcast on 30th September 2019, a specific health report given to a Carmarthenshire licensed breeder was referenced. We are unfortunately unable to discuss client cases and share any of the background detail to the referenced report, and handwritten notes on that report.

‘Towy Vets passionately believe that breeding should be done within strict animal welfare guidelines and expect our vets to follow the RCVS code of conduct. We would welcome further dialogue with Carmarthenshire Council on the regulation of breeding.’

MP CALLS FOR DECISIVE ACTION

In 2018, Carmarthenshire became one of the first local authorities in Wales to adopt Lucy’s Law.

Lucy’s Law aims to ban third-party puppy and kitten sales, ensuring stronger protections for animals.

However, the problem in West Wales appears to be not only with unlicensed breeders but also with the activities of licensed ones.

Jonathan Edwards MP, who wrote to the Labour Welsh Government to address the poor animal welfare issues raised on the programme, developed that point.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards said: “My constituents are very concerned that this remains an ongoing issue in Wales. It is my understanding that these terrible events took place on licensed premises. It appears that licences have been issued to people who do not have the welfare of these dogs at heart.

I have written to the Welsh Government to press them for immediate, decisive action to stop these farms from operating in such a terrible manner. An investigation is also required for these unscrupulous activities. It seems clear to me that the current regulations under this government are inadequate.”

AM QUESTIONS ‘FAILING’ SYSTEM

Mid and West Regional Labour AM Joyce Watson raised the harrowing programme in First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd.

Ms Watson commended the BBC for showing ‘cruelty beyond belief in council-registered puppy farms’.

The AM continued: “It showed hundreds of dogs living in filthy, dark, damp and cold conditions. These premises are inspected annually by inspectors and vets, people who are supposed to prioritise the welfare of the animals.

A number of premises have been inspected and found wanting, with breaches concerning poor animal welfare logged by inspectors and vets.

This wasn’t a one-off, they had consistently failed to meet recommendations and had been issued with warnings. Despite this, no action was taken against the breeders and licences were reissued year on year.

In some instances, not even basic needs were being met, such as in one site near Llandysul that featured in the programme.”

In that case, a dog was given to undercover workers from a rescue charity. After a vet inspected the animal, a dead puppy was found undelivered and emergency surgery needed to save the animal’s life.

Joyce Watson continued: “The legislation that is in place to protect these dogs is failing. The sheer volume of upheld complaints suggests that something is radically wrong in this process. Minister, I’d like to know what immediate action the Welsh Government are taking, in light of this report, to protect the welfare of both the puppies and the adult dogs at the puppy farms featured in this programme. And it’s clear to me, from the response that I’ve had swiftly overnight, that these authorities are overwhelmed.”

Responding on the Welsh Government’s behalf, Trefynydd Rebecca Evans told AMs she and other AMs shared Joyce Watson’s horror at the programme’s content.

Ms Evans said: The Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs [Lesley Griffiths AM] has written — or intends to very shortly — to veterinary bodies, and also to local authorities about this specific issue. She’s meeting with the chief veterinary officer tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 2). But I also know that the Minister intends to ask the animal welfare framework group to revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions at breeding establishments.”

TIME IS THE KILLER

How long that will take is anybody’s guess, in the meantime animals are still suffering in both licensed and unlicensed puppy farms in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere.

An illustration of the current regulatory regime’s shortcomings is shown by the case of Sylvia Griffiths, the owner of Glenview Kennels in Llandyfaelog, who continued to breed and sell puppies despite being refused a licence by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Griffiths held a breeding licence for Glenview since 1998, originally granted for up to 23 adult dogs.

However, when she applied to renew her licence in July 2016, animal health officers visited and found 74 adult dogs on the premises in overcrowded conditions with no free access to exercise areas.

Despite being given time to address conditions and warned that a failure to bring about necessary improvements to animal welfare, when council officers returned to her premises in December 2016 they found that conditions had not improved sufficiently to permit Griffiths to continue holding a licence.

Notwithstanding the officers’ findings, Griffiths continued to defy the law and breed dogs for sale.

It took a complaint from a concerned customer in May 2017, however, for the Council to take further action.

It was over a year later, on July 20, 2018, that Griffiths was ordered to pay £13,500 in fines and costs for continuing to breed and sell puppies illegally.

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News

Tragedy above Milford Haven takeaway

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DYFED POWYS POLICE has confirmed that a 20-year-old male passed away in Milford Haven last Saturday, April 17.

Police were called to the USA Fried Chicken store on Charles Street at around 1:30pm but have said there are no suspicious circumstances.

A Herald reporter was at the scene and witnessed a number of police cars and an ambulance while plain-clothed officers were also seen.

HM Coroner has been informed.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We were called to Charles Street in Milford Haven on Saturday 17 April at approximately 1.34pm to reports of a medical emergency. We attended the scene with one emergency ambulance where we assisted colleagues from the police.”

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Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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Joinery learner through to Screwfix Trade Apprentice of the Year Finals

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE joinery learner, Conor Ratcliff has made it through to the final ten in this year’s Screwfix Trade Apprentice of the Year competition.

Now in its seventh year, the competition celebrates the next generation of tradespeople as they start out on their career. With over 2,500 nominations, Conor was shortlisted to the top 30 where he had to deliver a video presentation to industry-leading judges and trade body representatives. Judged on professionalism, creativity, innovation, enthusiasm and knowledge of their trade, Conor impressed the judges and is now in the final 10.  

Simon Jackson, Screwfix Customer and Digital director, commented: “Every year we are amazed by the outstanding quality of entrants and, this year, we are on the lookout for apprentices who go above and beyond to succeed within their chosen trade.

“We’ve seen how this career-boosting accolade and £10,000 prize bundle helps kickstart an apprentice’s career. I’d like to wish everyone through to this stage the best of luck!”

The prize package includes everything a future tradesperson may need to start up their own business including £5,000 of tools, a £3,000 training budget and £2,000 worth of technology. The college where they study will also receive £2,000.

Conor is thrilled to have made it through to the finals and commented: “I am extremely honoured to have made it this far in the competition and I am very excited for the final event. It would be an amazing opportunity for me, if I won this competition.

“I hope it encourages more people to consider an apprenticeship in a trade, the Carpentry and Joinery department have been incredibly supportive during my studies.”

The Final is due to take place imminently where the judges will conduct an online interview with the ten finalists before selecting and announcing their overall winner.

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