Hope Rescue sees dog breeder sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court today

Hope Rescue staff and volunteers outside Cardiff Crown Court today

26 April 2018


A dog breeder has received a suspended sentence and a curfew after Cardiff Crown Court heard how she had advertised puppies for sale that she did not have, lied about their genetic make-up and overbred her animals.

Following a successful prosecution by the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Lisa Canning was sentenced to 30 weeks on each of five counts, suspended for two years together with 200 hours of unpaid work to be completed in 12 months and a four month night time curfew.

Her breeding licence was revoked in May 2017 and she will never be able to legally run a dog breeding business again.

Canning made around £50,000 from the unlawful trade through her business 4 Small Paws, which was based first at East Aberthaw and then Castle-upon-Alun, selling dogs through such websites as Pets4Hones, Preloved Pets and Gumtree.

Less than a week before her Crown Court trial was due to begin, she pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and one of engaging in unfair commercial practice.

Canning was selling dogs as sought-after breeds for high prices, suggesting they had full vaccination and medical histories. But the investigation revealed a very different story about their background and there was often no record of any veterinary procedures having been carried out. Some dogs had been acquired from unknown sources and locations, while others had been bred in breach of the terms of her licence.

She claimed to sell Cockerpoos, Cocker Spaniels, Chocolate Labradors, Cavapoos, Pugs and Scottish Terriers, though some of the dogs weren’t what they appeared. One family purchased what they thought was a Cockerpoo, a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Miniature Poodle, for £650 but DNA tests revealed the dog was actually 25% Miniature Poodle, 25% Toy Poodle and 50% Bichon Frise. Another individual was told they had bought a Golden Labrador after parting with £750, only for DNA tests to prove it was actually part Labrador Retriever, part Golden Retriever and part Cocker Spaniel. Both dogs were sold with no paperwork to verify their breed and medical history, and only a voucher offering four weeks’ free insurance was provided. In both cases, the dates of birth proved to be questionable, and the exact age of the puppies was therefore unknown

At Canning’s kennels, dogs fell pregnant more often than was permitted and some before they were legally old enough, meaning she was producing more animals than allowed.

Following Canning’s arrest, a number of animals were placed with Hope Rescue that works in partnership with the Council.

Canning also engaged in a practice known as ‘bait advertising’, which involves advertising an animal a person does not own in order to entice a customer to buy another. Customers were also misled by being directed to purchase Canning’s puppies from a friend of hers who posed as a private breeder. In total more than 100 puppies were unlawfully sold, though Canning’s chaotic record keeping means it is impossible to establish the exact number.

In passing sentence his Honour Judge Crowther QC told Canning that her actions were calculated to defraud the public and she had criminally enriched herself to the tune of £50,000. She had a long-standing licence to breed dogs that imposed restrictions and she breached every one.

He said: “It wasn’t simply failure to not have regard to a licence, you took other measures to avoid conditions. This was a front for puppy farms and a conduit through which those maligned businesses operate. This wasn’t a victimless crime; the harm is that you play on people’s emotions, children especially.”

Canning was ordered to pay a total of £46,595 in costs, compensation of £3095 and a victim surcharge.

Cllr Hunter Jarvie, Member of the Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee, said: “This business was operating fraudulently on a large scale with absolutely no regard for the rules and regulations put in place to protect both animals and customers.

“Hard work from Shared Regulatory Services officers, on behalf of the Council, has ensured this individual has been brought to justice. The Vale of Glamorgan Council will not tolerate this kind of operation, which defrauds people looking for pets out of significant sums of money and mistreats animals. I hope the severity of the punishment handed out acts as a deterrent to others thinking of committing similar offences.”

Vanessa Waddon, Founder of Hope Rescue, added: “When we took in four of Canning’s Cocker Spaniels, all of which were heavily pregnant, the effects on these young dogs being used as nothing more than breeding machines were clear to see. As well as having various health issues, they were all completely withdrawn and wary of human contact.

“We spent several thousands of pounds taking care of the dogs and their pups that were all born in our care, picking up the cost of Canning’s neglect. She was clearly putting profit above the wellbeing of the dogs, and our thanks go to the Vale of Glamorgan Council for pursuing this case to ensure she faced justice.”

Arianne Lewis, who was at the court with Bailey, one of the cocker spaniels taken in by Hope Rescue, said: “I am so glad to have adopted Bailey, she is a lovely dog and brings so much joy to my family. I can’t stand the thought of her being used to produce litter after litter of puppies. My family and I are so pleased we could give her the life she so deserves.

“I came down to the court today to show my support for Hope Rescue and I really hope this case helps to prevent more dogs like Bailey suffering like this.”

Hope Rescue is on record as supporting Lucy’s Law, which campaigns to ban the sale of puppies through pet shops and other third-party traders. Such a ban would prevent breeders like Lisa Canning from selling puppies through websites, passing off dogs from puppy farms as her own and from being able to operate such harmful and dishonest businesses.

Hope Rescue was only able to take in the pregnant spaniels and provide them and their puppies with such excellent care through the support of the public. It has recently launched a crisis fundraising appeal to ensure that it can continue helping dogs in need like these.

You can help Hope Rescue to continue this life-saving work by making a gift today. Details on how to donate are here