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Pair abused animals at Scotland's largest puppy farm

Frank James and Michelle Wood caused unnecessary suffering to dogs, ferrets and rabbits.

Cruelty: Frank James and Michelle Wood were found guilty.
Cruelty: Frank James and Michelle Wood were found guilty.

A man and woman who intensively bred hundreds of dogs at Scotland's largest puppy farm have been found guilty of abusing animals.

Frank James, from Banff, and Michelle Wood, of Macduff, caused unnecessary suffering to dogs, ferrets and rabbits at East Mains of Ardlogie Farm near Fyvie in Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish SPCA and police raided the farm in November 2017, removing 105 animals including 87 dogs, the youngest being a few days old.

Both James and Wood used a burnt out van to dispose of dead puppies, with carcasses found inside.

The animals were taken to Scottish SPCA animal rescue and rehoming centres for treatment and rehabilitation.

The pair will be sentenced on August 7.

An undercover investigator for the Scottish SPCA described the conditions as "absolutely disgraceful".

Abuse: Puppies were kept in horrible conditions.
Abuse: Puppies were kept in horrible conditions.

The 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 pleaded 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.

Farm: Both pleaded guilty.
Farm: Both pleaded guilty.

Based on reports to the charity's animal helpline, the Scottish SPCA believe James' flouted this ban to continue selling puppies.

The 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."

Dogs: Animals were abused.
Dogs: Animals were abused.

To allow the animals to find homes more quickly, the animal welfare charity 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.

Scottish SPCA 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."

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