International puppy smuggling ring based in Milton Keynes jailed for 18 years

    Image: RSPCA

    Members of a Milton Keynes puppy farming gang have been jailed for a total of more than 18 years after masterminding a large operation and trafficking sick puppies into the country.

    Thirteen people appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on Wednesday and Thursday (4th and 5th August) for sentencing.

    Ten pleaded guilty to fraud with nine of those also admitting animal welfare offences, and a further three pleading guilty to animal welfare offences. Seven were handed immediate jail terms totalling more than 18 years; the longest combined prison sentences an RSPCA investigation has ever seen.

    After the sentencing, lead RSPCA investigator Michelle Hare said: “This follows a large multi-agency investigation into a sophisticated and complex puppy farming ring in the Milton Keynes area.

    "This operation was led by the Cawley family who were illegally breeding and importing puppies to supply to third parties - or frontmen - to be sold to unsuspecting members of the public on their behalf.

    “Dogs were kept in poor conditions in lorry containers and the backs of vans and were often riddled with health problems but were sold to innocent families who were hoping to add a dog to their homes but were, instead, left with staggering vet bills, dogs with complicated needs and, for some, the heartache of losing their puppy.”

    The following were all sentenced this week:

    • Annalise Cawley of Willen Road travellers site, Newport Pagnell, pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years and a 10-year disqualification order on all animals;

    • John Christopher Cawley of Willen Road travellers site, Newport Pagnell pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received three and a half years in prison and a 10-year disqualification order on all animals;

    • Joseph Cawley Snr of Willen Road travellers site, Newport Pagnell pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received three years and nine months in prison and a 10 year disqualification order on all animals;

    • Joseph Cawley Junior of Willen Road travellers site, Newport Pagnell pleaded guilty to animal welfare act offences and received a 24-month community order with 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 150 hours of unpaid work and a 10 year disqualification order on all animals;

    • Margaret Cawley of Willen Road travellers site, Newport Pagnell pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received three years and nine months in prison and a 10-year disqualification order on all animals;

    • Michael Cawley of Reeves Croft, Hodge Lea, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received two years and three months in prison and a 10-year disqualification order on all animals;

    • Rebecca Elizabeth Lorraine Hall of Grangers Croft, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received four months suspended for two years, £750 compensation and a 10 year disqualification order on dogs;

    • John Paul O’Brien of Grangers Croft, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received 13 months in prison and a 10 year disqualification order on dogs;

    • Wendy Jane Ann O’Brien of Grangers Croft, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to animal welfare act offences and received three months suspended for two years, three-month curfew order, £1,000 compensation and a 10-year disqualification order on dogs;

    • Austin Charles Paice of Whaddon Way, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and received a 13 months prison [animal welfare offences have been remitted back to the magistrates’ court];

    • Mary Ward of Reeves Croft, Hodge Lea, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to animal welfare act offences and received three months suspended for two years, 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and a 10-year disqualification order on all animals;

    • James Yeboah of Avon House, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received nine months suspended for two years, 150 hours of unpaid work, £1,000 costs and compensation, and a 10 year disqualification order;

    • Daniel Yeboah of Avon House, Milton Keynes pleaded guilty to fraud and animal welfare act offences and received three and a half years in prison and a 10 year disqualification order on all animals.

    The court also issued destruction orders for 10 seized mobile phones and forfeited £16,000 of seized cash which will be distributed to the victims. Six dogs who remain in RSPCA care can now be rehomed and costs of £100,357.63 were awarded to the RSPCA. 

    Between June and November 2019, the RSPCA and Trading Standards received a large number of complaints about the sale of puppies from different addresses in the Milton Keynes area. 

    Initially these cases were investigated in isolation but, as statements were gathered, it became apparent that the addresses were linked and the RSPCA joined up with Milton Keynes Council’s Trading Standards department to investigate. 

    In November 2019, when one of the suspect addresses had to be dealt with prematurely, all puppy-selling activity at all of the addresses stopped. In February 2020, the selling started again and, on 19 March 2020, RSPCA officers joined Thames Valley Police as they executed warrants at six addresses, one storage unit and a number of unregistered vehicles at the Willen Road travellers’ site and Avon House.

    Police seized 54 dogs in total who were taken into RSPCA care, for vet treatment and rehabilitation. Cocker spaniels, Schnauzers, Chihuahuas, springer spaniels, Labradors, beagles and poodles were among those removed. 

    In her witness statement, Inspector Hare said: “As I made my way onto the site it was clear that there were a very large number of dogs and puppies present. Other than a couple of dogs running loose on site, the rest were all being housed in lorry bodies and storage containers situated on the site. 

    “Some of the dogs had untreated health problems and conditions including fur loss, ear infections and dental disease, and they were all being kept in wholly inappropriate environments

    “The trailers had been split into pens and all of the dogs were being kept in poor conditions. The kennels were dirty and smelt strongly of ammonia, while one of the pens was full of hazards including nails sticking out, sharp metal mesh and wires hanging down. There were holes in the walls and floor that appeared to have been caused by the dogs trying to chew out of the space.

    “We removed four pregnant bitches and a poodle cross who had recently given birth, along with five poodle cross puppies who were just 48-hours-old. Police seized a total of 51 dogs and a further four litters of puppies were born in our care.”

    On 4 November 2020, Thames Valley Police contacted the charity after an officer attended Willen Road and found puppies there. Inspector Hare attended to meet police at the scene and found a collie bitch, a cocker spaniel bitch, a 12- week-old cocker spaniel puppy, and three six-week-old spaniel cross pups on site.

    Inspector Hare said: “The three youngest pups were in a dark, cold pen and they couldn’t see anything but four solid walls. The water was dirty and the bedding smelled strongly of urine. The environment was totally unsuitable.

    “Joseph Cawley Snr, who was on scene, said his cousin owned the puppies. I told him I’d be removing them and asked for the owner’s details but he refused to give them to me. Police seized the puppies. They had brown discharge in their ears, nasty infections and bloated abdomens.”

    The dogs were cared for by the RSPCA and in foster homes and can now all be rehomed.

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