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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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 East: Monday September 6, 2004


Puppy asleep on a table
Puppy farm puppies often suffer with health problems

To most, they're man's best friend and a life long companion, but for some disreputable traders, puppies are simply a commodity to be cheaply and cruelly farmed and sold.

Inside Out East goes undercover to expose one Essex puppy trader who has been the subject of complaints for over 10 years.

Puppy love

Dogs, like any pet, can be a costly affair. A pedigree dog can cost from £200 upwards, and that's before the vaccinations and vet's bills.

But when a family pet becomes ill, it is not simply a monetary cost, it can be an emotional cost too.

"We got him on the Saturday, by the Monday he was in the vets," describes Lisa Burton.

Puppy asleep on a trainer
Many puppies are bought in ill health, some even die

"We were phoned by the vet to say he's not going to make it... then we got the call to say that he died."

Like Lisa, Jan Lewis and Ellen Christopoulous encountered similar problems with their new puppies, but that's not all these women have in common.

All three dogs were originally bought as puppies from Loretta Bastin of Dobe Farm Kennels - a puppy trader who over the years has invited an endless stream of complaints.

Puppy farms

The RSPCA believes Ms Bastin receives her dogs from "puppy farms" in Ireland where licenses are not required to breed or sell dogs.

RSPCA officer Alastair Keen has recently raided such farms.

"We found them living in their excreta and urine... I couldn't enter without feeling physically sick," describes Alastair.

Dogs bred in these conditions often suffer with chronic health and behavioural problems and are rarely the pedigrees they are sold to be.

"In terms of behaviour... they get off to a very very bad start and it just goes downhill from then on," says Alastair.

Still in business

Steve Lynch of Trading Standards
Steve Lynch from Trading Standards has been involved in Ms Bastin's investigation

Complaints ranging from fake pedigrees to bogus vaccination certificates drew the attention of both Trading Standards and the RSPCA.

"We've been dealing with Ms Bastin for nearly 15 years," explains Steve Lynch of Essex Trading Standards.

"We visited her three to four years ago... we've been looking at her closely for a long time," agrees RSPCA officer Alastair Keen.

Yet 15 years on, Ms Bastin is still in business. Inside Out East goes undercover to find out why.

How much is that doggy?

Under the pretence of buying a puppy as a present, our Inside Out undercover team takes a hidden camera into Ms Bastin's portakabin, where three puppies are presented to choose from.

Our team are told that the puppies are commercially bred. They claim the puppies are pedigree, but not Kennel Club registered.

After selecting a Yorkshire Terrier, the puppy is promptly saturated with flea spray. Our reporter is then handed a bag of adult dog food, six months free insurance with Petplan and a word processed pedigree certificate, without the breeder's address.

Check-up time

The puppy is taken straight to vet David Taylor for a thorough examination which reveals that she is full of fleas. The puppy has blocked eye ducts and may not even be a pure Yorkshire Terrier.

Puppy purchased by Inside Out
Inside Out's puppy has fleas and worms and according to the vet, will be difficult to train

Like Inside Out, David is sceptical of the word processed pedigree certificate and the vaccination record has no address for the vet who performed them.

The full written report reveals an eight inch Toxocara round worm confirming that the puppy was never fully wormed.

A phone call to insurers Petplan, reveals the policy to be for breeders only and therefore invalid.

A sick puppy without a valid insurance plan can be a great expense as Ellen Christopoulous discovered.

"I bought the dog for £275 - the vet's fees came to £1,000 of which I didn't get anything back."

Wanting answers to the questions raised by the vet, Inside Out gets back in touch with Ms Bastin who assures us that her breeder in Southern Ireland will be in touch.

The breeder fails to get in contact.

Landmark case

Ms Bastin leaving court
Ms Bastin refused to answer any questions posed by Inside Out

After various investigations, Trading Standards succeeded in taking Ms Bastin to court in July 2004.

In a Landmark case, she was banned from selling substandard goods and faces a prison sentence if she breaks her court order, but the courts were powerless to revoke her pet-shop license.

"I don't think it goes anywhere near far enough," says Lisa "It seems like she just got a slap on the wrist."

Upon leaving court, Ms Bastin declined an interview.

Walk away

It seems at present that the law is powerless to prevent this cruel trade and responsibility falls solely into the hands of the consumer.

"People buy these puppies because they feel sorry for them," explains vet David Taylor.

"But that's the worst thing you can do because there'll be more produced to fill the gap.

"Walk away," he insisits.

Click here for more information about buying a new puppy: what questions to ask, what signs to look for and how to avoid puppy farm traders.

See also ...

Irish puppy farm shut down

On the rest of the web
The Kennel Club
The Dogs Trust
British Veterinary Association
Pedigree Dogs

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Jane Ball
...and we are supposed to be a nation of dog lovers? This clearly higlights the lack of government funding for organisations such as the RSPCA and the how the British legal system does not protect innocent animals. This is cruelty. She MUST be prevented of having anything to do with animal for life - not just a slap on the wrist.

Lesley Hope (Hope-UK)
Yet another programme highlights the misery and suffering caused by puppy farming.

Why are the RSPCA not campaigning for the this trade to be made illegal.

It is time they stopped voicing the same old comments and actively got down to putting an end to puppy farming. They know it causes suffering to the breeding bitches as well as the puppies so why do they sit back and do nothing.

Councils seem more then willing to overlook the fact that we are destroying hundreds of thousands of healthy unwanted dogs every year - but seem more then happy to grant more breeding licenses to puppy farmers.

The trade is unregulated and 'out of hand'. The term 'licensed breeder' means nothing in terms of welfare to the animals.

The smaller anti puppy farming campaigning groups know the REAL problems that are happening day after day in relation to puppy farming. It is a crime that the RSPCA with all of it's money and Government support does not see and share these groups concerns.

Puppy Alert
Thanks BBC East this programe was excellent but it only gave a glimpse into the horrendous puppy trade, it needed an hour at least.

This was one trader who is flaunting the law and selling sick and diseased puppies, there are countless more doing the same and like Miss Bastin getting away with it!

Breeding bitches and puppies are suffering at the hands of the indescriminate breeders and dealers who only have one interest and that is one of monetary gain.

If you are thinking of buying a puppy and you cannot see it with its Mum, then walk away, do not get fobbed off. For every puppy sold another is one bred to take its place, please remember that, you are not saving the puppy you are subjecting another breeding bitch and litter of puppies to the same fate.

The RSPCA need to be far more active and aware of this trade not just jumping on the bandwagon to make comments on a TV programe. Trading Standards departments throughout the UK,Customs and the Police all have a roll to play in curbing this trade yet there is very little interest from any other than Essex Trading Standards.

Month after month Councils in Wales give licenses to dog breeders knowing full well they are selling to dealers and perpetuating the puppy trade. Why is it that no one seems to care about the suffering that is taking place to the breeding bitches, puppies and often the puppy purchasers too?.

Pat James
How would the RSPCA know where any of the dog dealers purchase their pups, they stopped campaigning against puppy farming in 1999. Inside Out covered a similar story on pet shops, Watchdog are covering a dealer in Kent, Short Change on an unlicensed breeder and each time a pup is bought from premises by a reporter. What we want is for the BBC to follow the trail from breeder to pet shop, the deliveries from Ireland and the Welsh puppy farms.

Judging by the complaints we receive, advising the public is a waste of time. This has to be stopped at source, from the transporters to the Ferry Companies, pet adverts need to be regulated and local authorities to to act on evidence submitted. Essex responds positively, but try Maidstone , Sutton and Croydon and all complaints are brushed under the carpet.

Craig Smith
Hello After watching you program about holly`s hounds wickford essex. In febuary 2004 we bought a jackrussel from mrs bastin, althought we didnt have alot of trouble with our dog, we were told that she had her injections to date, but when we tookher to the vet the next day they did`nt like the paper work that we showed him, and we were told that she was four months old and not twelve weeks that we were led to beleve,

But seven months on our jackrussell parson is fit & healthy and admired by other dog lovers.

Mr & Mrs Toop
We bought eddie our jack russell from ms bastin he was the last dog left she said that he was wormed and 10 wks old when in fact the vet said he was close to six weeks old and he had his tail docked illegally, he cost us £125.

we had him home about 3 days when one sunday he wasnt moving very well and we noticed blood from his back passage, theemergency vet said he was full to the brim with worms and was lucky to have lived a day more, fees where £80 which ms bastin said she would pay us back but never did even though we made constant attempts to talk to her she just put us off we have been waiting for the chance to tell someone with the power to finally do something.

he is now 3 and i believe if we hadnt have got him out of there she would have let him die,she shouldnt be allowed to keep doing this as we were lucky but some others have not been, our children, myself and my wife were so upset at the time, and i feel sorry for others that got puppies from this woman.

the money is of no concern now as we still have our eddie but more families will suffer until she is closed down and not allowed to do this again, yours thankfully.

Andrea Abbott
We bought a westie from Dobe farm on 26/06/04 he had bleeding from the rear end 2 days later he is still with us but cant be left as he is destructive bashes him self til he bleeds, howls for hours, and gets so scared he vomits.

we paid 350 for him with false insurance and printed pedigree our vet traced him to coming from eire. This woman needs to stay away from dogs she is cruel and heartless our dog though lovely is a very frightend submissive dog. Who knows what he has suffered in his short life.

I owe my puppy a happy life and we love him to bits. But i cant take his hurt and pain away and explain i will never hurt him or leave him he is scared for life.

Thanks to Dobe farm a puppy learns fear between 8-12 weeks our pup was 16 weeks when we paid 350.00 to rescue him from hell close her down.

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