Kelly Jean Bennett, Ricky Jay Bennett, Steven Gilmore Foster and Stacey Jane Hayward entered responsible pleas; two to fraud and two to buying felony property – and will probably be sentenced at Basildon Crown Courtroom in August
4 members of a puppy-selling gang have pleaded responsible to offences in reference to the fraudulent sale of puppies.
Kelly Jean Bennett and Ricky Jay Bennett, each of Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, Grays; plus Steven Gilmore Foster and Stacey Jane Hayward, each of Colliford Street, West Thurrock, all stood trial at Basildon Crown Courtroom on Friday, Might 13, all 4 entered responsible pleas; two to fraud and two to buying felony property.
Kelly Bennett additionally indicated responsible pleas to 2 offences beneath the Animal Welfare Act whereas Ricky Bennett indicated a responsible plea to 1 animal welfare offence.
The RSPCA and native authority launched an investigation into pet promoting within the Essex space after being contacted by members of the general public who had purchased puppies from addresses in Billericay, Grays and Thurrock.
The charity’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) – a specialist taskforce that investigates severe, organised and business animal cruelty, such because the high value trade in puppies – began trying right into a premises at Crays Hill in 2019.
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Within the case abstract, Hazel Stevens – prosecuting on behalf of the animal welfare charity – mentioned: “Members of the public had made complaints to the local authority and the RSPCA about puppies being purchased from said premises – which soon became ill after sale.
“Twelve witness statements were taken in relation to puppies with health problems which were sold from the Billericay address between June and September 2019, and one in March 2019.”
The court docket was advised that Basildon Council had licensed Stacey Hayward to promote puppies however the licence was revoked in July 2018 on account of complaints about sick puppies. Her breeding licence ran out in December 2018.
Hayward and her associate, Steven Foster, moved to a brand new dwelling and, in October 2019, complaints started coming into the RSPCA associated to an handle in Weymouth Drive, occupied by Kelly and Ricky Bennett. An RSPCA officer visited in August 2019 and gave recommendation about licensing however no licence was ever issued for this handle, the court docket was advised.
Weymouth Drive was linked to an handle in Colliford Street by way of a witness and this was confirmed as the brand new residence of Hayward and Foster.
Each sellers had been promoting puppies who had been described as being ‘bred at home’ but it surely seems quite a lot of puppies had been sourced from Wales, with Welsh vaccination playing cards containing particulars minimize out or erased.
Prosecutor Hazel added: “In addition, adverts were placed on the selling sites with various names and numbers. Visitors to the Hayward address were still shown her licence documents despite its revocation.
“Search warrants were executed at both properties and puppies were found to be present at both with some adult dogs. Dead puppies were also found at both properties in the freezer (two at Weymouth and one at Colliford).
“Seizure of paperwork and phones further demonstrates the links between the two addresses and there is evidence of Hayward delivering to Bennett’s address.”
9 puppies had been discovered dwelling in a shed on the rear of the backyard at Colliford Street; they had been all seized and brought into care. One examined optimistic for parvovirus and sadly died however the others, who had been affected by Giardia and different well being issues, made full recoveries and had been rehomed.
At Weymouth Drive, officers discovered three grownup spaniels, 5 cocker spaniel puppies and two useless spaniel puppies which ‘appeared to have been dead for days’, Hazel mentioned. The court docket heard that the litter of spaniel puppies examined optimistic for Giardia, a small parasite that assaults the intestines.
RSPCA officers labored intently with the Jap Area Particular Operations Unit’s monetary investigator who analysed monetary data linked to the sellers, and attributed roughly £850,000 of earnings linked to the sale of puppies.
Seized telephones had been analysed and confirmed many messages responding to adverts for puppies, utilizing totally different names. Financial institution statements confirmed funds with the reference: ‘Puppy’.
Messages confirmed that each Hayward and Kelly Bennett had been sourcing puppies frequently and inserting adverts on-line utilizing pretend names and particulars, and claiming the puppies had been bred and reared in a household dwelling.
Messages on the telephones additionally confirmed that Ricky Bennett had taken funds for the puppies, whereas witnesses had paid cash into Foster’s checking account for puppies too.
RSPCA officers analysed the adverts and estimated that not less than 100 adverts had been positioned, promoting round 500 puppies, between December 2018 and March 2020, throughout Gumtree, Preloved and Pets4homes. The court docket heard that the promoting of puppies continued all through lockdown, till Might 2021.
All 4 will probably be sentenced at Basildon Crown Courtroom on August 12.
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