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.
Council continues with Storm Dennis clean-up
CARMARTHENSHIRE’S clean-up operation following Storm Dennis is continuing
Crews have been working hard to clear debris left by the floods, with specialist contractors being drafted in to help in some areas.
A full assessment of the damage caused is being carried out and inspections of affected roads, verges and bridges on major routes will be completed by the end of the week.
A Support Fund has also been set up for residents and businesses in need of financial support.
All homes in Carmarthenshire affected by the floods can receive support and advice, with a £200 advance to those most in need.
Business support officers have contacted more than 100 businesses who have previously been affected by floods to offer assistance if needed; with rate relief also being sought from Welsh Government. The majority of businesses affected have now been able to re-open.
Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole has today taken part in a Welsh Government summit being held today (Wednesday) to discuss the disruption and damage caused by Storm Dennis along with representatives from other local authorities, Natural Resources Wales, the emergency services, businesses and voluntary groups.
Cllr Dole said: “I would like to thank staff who are working hard in the aftermath of the storm to clear up affected parts of the county and who are advising and supporting residents and businesses.
“A Support Fund has been set up to help those most in need of financial support and I would urge anyone affected to please get in touch.
“A full assessment of the damage is underway, and, as well as working with partner agencies, we will liaise with Welsh Government to ascertain what resources are available.”
For more information or to apply for the Support Fund visit the council website or call 01267 234567.
Carmarthenshire Labour call on county to sort out school buses
LOCAL representatives Lee Waters MS, Nia Griffith MP and Cllr Rob James have again called upon Carmarthenshire Council to step in to restore school bus services across the county, after it has become clear that they have the power to do so.
Lee Waters MS and Nia Griffith MP stepped in to ask the UK Government to grant an exemption to the new regulations to allow parents and the council time to come up with a permanent solution in Carmarthenshire. A letter received by Lee Waters and Nia Griffith from the Secretary of State for Wales makes it clear that an exemption already exists that would allow Carmarthenshire to step in. The exemption was made available to all school transport procured by or on behalf of a school on 31 December last year.
Before these exemptions were granted school pupils in Carmarthenshire had seen many of their school bus routes cut, as a result of the introduction of regulations from the UK Government. The regulations, passed in 2000 and phased in, restricts the types of vehicles that bus companies could use to ensure that all vehicles can accept wheelchairs. The changes have caused a number of school bus routes to be axed with around 500 pupils directly affected. As a result children have been left with long walks to school in the dark and rain, or having to catch service buses that are more expensive and don’t provide an adequate and timely service.
The Labour Group on Carmarthenshire Council, led by Cllr Rob James have been pressuring the Plaid Cymru leadership to take initiative and commission replacement services since this exemption was announced, but the Plaid Cymru leadership have maintained that they aren’t able to do so.
Lee Waters MS said: “We have written to the UK Government to ask them to allow school bus services to keep running as before, but they’ve written back pointing out there’s nothing stopping Carmarthenshire Council from commissioning buses themselves.
“It would be simpler if the UK Government were to take action but there is a way that Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire could sort things out, but it’s clear they won’t act.
“Meanwhile, it’s the children who are suffering”
Nia Griffith MP said: “It’s now crystal clear that Carmarthenshire Council could step in to restore the buses. The only thing holding them back is reluctance on the part of the Plaid Cymru leadership.
“I’m particularly frustrated because we’ve pointed out that the Council could solve this by contracting a service for weeks now, and they’ve refused to budge. Because of that, Carmarthenshire could now be at the back of the queue and pupils will be left stranded.”
Cllr Rob James said: “The children and families affected by the administration’s inaction deserve an apology. We have always known that it was the local Council that could step in and support pupils – it’s baffling that they are still refusing to do so.
“In the coming weeks we will be tabling a vote in the Council to restore lost school buses and I hope all Councillors will vote with their conscience.”
More investment on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway
The final stage of recovery works to repair damage caused by Storm Callum on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway.
A highly complex programme of phased works has already been completed in one of the worst hit areas at Cwmduad, when a landslide tragically claimed the life of a young man.
Repairs as a result of the storm have also been carried out at Bronwydd.
Some 20 miles of the A484 was affected by the extreme weather conditions in Carmarthenshire in October 2018 stretching from Carmarthen to Cenarth.
Phase two of the support works have now started at other affected areas at Henallt Bends, Pante South, Llwyfan Cerrig Station, Foelfach, Tirgwili/Rock and Fountain, Mile End, Nantclawdd, the A484/A475 junction, Gelligatti before finishing at Flatwood in Cenarth.
Works will include felling damaged trees, providing foundations for new safety barriers, stabilising embankments and installing new highway drainage chambers.
Carmarthenshire Council secured funding from Welsh Government to carry out maintenance of the highway in response to detailed inspections following the storm.
Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “This has been a very complex operation covering over 20 miles and involving a number of agencies. Whilst the safety of the public is paramount, every effort will be made to ensure these essential works are carried out with as minimal disruption as possible until they have been completed. We understand that this has had a major impact on the local community and road users, and we would like to thank them for their patience and co-operation whilst these recovery and repair works are being carried out.”
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