At Swansea Crown Court on 14 August, Steffan Lee Harries and Barbara Ray Howell were given prison sentences due to a number of serious offences, including animal cruelty. Steffan Lee Harries was sentenced to six months imprisonment with immediate effect; three months of which will be spent in custody and three months on licence depending on behaviour. His partner, Barbara Ray Howell was jailed for four months, suspended for 18 months due to being a young mother and also for having a smaller role in the criminal acts.
In addition, both have been banned from keeping dogs for five years. Harries has been banned from keeping poultry and sheep for five years.
The Crown Court ruling followed a hearing on 17 June 2019 at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court where Harries and Howell pleaded guilty to multiple charges of running a dog breeding business without a license. They also pleaded guilty to animal welfare charges and failures to dispose of animal by-products. They also pleaded guilty to trading standards offences that related to selling dogs as private owners on a website called pre-loved.co.uk.
The charges related to their former home of Waundwni in Tanygroes.
This followed a joint prosecution by Ceredigion County Council and the RSPCA, where the animals under the care of Harries and Howell were found in an appalling state of neglect. The RSPCA, with the assistance of the Police had to force entry into the locked buildings where dogs, chickens, pigs and horses had been left without food and water and no natural daylight.
Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Finance and Public Protection Services. He said, “This is the first time that Ceredigion County Council and the RSPCA have worked together in a joint prosecution which used the expertise of both organisations and made full use of the court powers available to the council. This conviction should serve as a warning to those that breeding dogs illegally in Ceredigion and the high risks associated with such activity.”
RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said, “This was an illegal puppy farm where dogs and their puppies were kept in disgusting conditions which fell far below the minimum standard required. Even the working dogs were neglected, with an emaciated collie, lurcher and terrier all found on the premises. The poultry were dead or dying as we walked around and despite calling a vet to the scene, for many it was too late.
“Sadly, this is a sight we see in south and west Wales time and time again - but there is no excuse. All animals must have their needs met and respected.
“We are very pleased to work with Ceredigion County Council to combat this illegal trade and we advise anyone with animal welfare concerns to call us on 0300 1234 999 or with information about unlicensed breeding to call the council.”
The decision was taken to seize the most vulnerable animals, and they were taken into the protective care of the RSPCA. The remaining animals were then cared for carefully by the authorities. 47 dogs and 16 chickens were rescued. Harries also admitted a further animal welfare charge of failing to meet the needs of sheep that he had abandoned on rented land in Rhydlewis.
As well as sentencing the couple, later this year Swansea Crown Court will also be considering a Proceeds of Crime Act application made by Ceredigion County Council for the illegal dog breeding activity.