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Trio guilty of unauthorised breeding and welfare offences Published Date: 06/03/2024

Two men and a woman have pleaded guilty at Derby Justice Centre to offences relating to unauthorised breeding of dogs and animal welfare offences following investigations by South Derbyshire District Council.

Steven Buxton of Breach Lane Sudbury admitted one offence of causing unnecessary suffering, nine offences of failing to ensure welfare and two offences of breeding without a licence. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 190 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £114 victim surcharge and £5,000 contribution towards the prosecution costs.

Oliver Lucas of Sudbury Park, Sudbury admitted two offences of causing unnecessary suffering, three offences of failing to ensure welfare and one offence of breeding without a licence. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work, ordered to pay a £114 victim surcharge and £2,000 contribution to the prosecution costs.

Susan Heath of Foss Road, Hilton pleaded guilty to breeding without a licence and was fined £180. She was also ordered to pay a £72 victim surcharge and £400 towards the prosecution costs.

In 2020 Council officers received complaints that dogs were being bred at Buxton’s home address without the necessary breeding licence. When Council officers contacted him, he denied this. Nevertheless, he was given information about how to do so legally.

In 2021 Council officers received information which indicated that dogs were being sold by owners using different names through various social media sites, but all based from Buxton’s address.

This led to an investigation which resulted in Council officers obtaining a court warrant to enter Buxton’s property, which took place on 7 June 2022.

A total of 28 adult dogs and pups were found in agricultural buildings at the site. Officers found that the conditions were cluttered and dirty, with extensive faecal and urine contamination, including a dead rat and an extensive infestation of flies. Officers described the smell in the building as overpowering.

All of the dogs at the site were observed to be anxious, suspicious and in some cases afraid of contact with humans.

Council officers decided that the welfare conditions were so poor that in order to prevent suffering they needed to make exceptional use of animal welfare powers to take immediate possession of the dogs.

All of the dogs were taken to a local kennels where they were examined by a vet who gave the opinion that the dogs had been neglected over a long period of time.

Approximately three weeks after the warrant, all of the dogs were signed over to the legal control of the local authority. All of the animals were returned to full health and were found permanent homes.

In sentencing, District Judge Flint made it clear that the offenders had collectively prioritised making money over the welfare of the animals and that they should be ashamed of the conditions that the dogs were living in.

He held Steven Buxton as most responsible and the chief protagonist, as it was his property and he clearly knew that he should have been licensed. The Judge commented that if he had been found guilty after trial, he would have looked at sending him to prison.

Councillor Stephen Taylor, Chair of the Council’s Environmental and Development Services Committee said:

“This was a case which required an unusually high level of intervention by Council officers, not just to address the unauthorised breeding, but also prevent suffering of these animals. Thankfully, all of the dogs have now been found new homes where they will be given the love, care and attention they need.

“The intervention by the Council’s Licensing and Environmental Health staff required a lot of time and persistence by our enforcement officers as well as significant costs in caring for the dogs. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to recover at least some of the cost and that the sentence reflects the seriousness of the offences.”