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Puppy Farm Rescue
These dogs were loose in the shed - were they the lucky ones?

Diary of the rescue of 204 Yorkshire Terriers and 37 cats from a Puppy Farm in West Sussex

On Easter Sunday (16th April, 2006), Croydon Animal Samaritans were called to a puppy farm in Sussex, where a dog breeder had suffered a stroke and died. They attended with a view to feeding and cleaning the dogs in the kennels and then arranging alternative accomodation for the dogs if necessary.

To their horror, they unpadlocked a shed door to reveal an unimaginable scene of animal suffering.They rang ourselves and the "Kit Wilson Trust" and we rushed to help.

The shed was 12 inches deep in a hard paper mache floor of layers of newspaper, stuck together with faeces and urine.This shed contained about 100 Pet Voyager style carry baskets. There were approximately 100 dogs running loose in the shed. The rest were locked in the Pet Voyager baskets. The baskets also contained layers of newspaper, faeces and urine which had solidified. About 1/3 of these baskets contained dogs locked in them. The dogs were crammed into the remaining 4-6 inch space at the top of the baskets. Some baskets contained mums with whole litters of puppies, whilst others contained 2, 3 or 4 adult dogs per basket.

PLEASE Click Here to see the BBC video Diary of the dogs.

Two dogs were living in this cage The stench of ammonia in the shed took your breath away. The dogs ALL have urine burns to their paws. The windowless shed had no electricity. We all worked late into the night to transfer as many dogs as possible into transport baskets and many people helped to transport more than 80 dogs and puppies to our clinic at Lewisham, where our veterinary staff and volunteers were waiting to receive them. The rest of the dogs and puppies were similarly transported to the "Kit Wilson Trust" sanctuary, and to "Croydon Animal Samaritans".

Our staff at Lewisham worked through the night treating and making comfortable the dogs.

Dreadful condition This is one of the dogs just arrived at our veterinary clinic in the early hours of the following morning.
Living conditions at the puppy farm Our rescue workers returned at dawn to the puppy farm to rescue the 30 cats from the outdoor cattery pens, where the cats were living in conditions that were far from satisfactory, but nowhere near as squalid as the condition that the poor dogs were in. Nearly all the cats are ginger moggies with extra toes. The "Kit Wilson Trust" also attended at dawn, and collected the remaining 20 dogs from the shed.
-They were all covered in faeces and urine from head to tail.
-Most were trailing long matted clumps of fur and faeces.
-The poor dogs paws are burnt with urine and many are infected.
-Most of these dogs have overgrown claws.
-Many of them have eye infections, injuries and some are blind in one or both eyes.
-Some have almost no fur.
Trudie and Viv two of the healthier Yorkies, 3 weeks after the initial rescue

28th April 2006

Most of the adult dogs in our care have now been neutered, vaccinated microchipped. They were also bathed, had their coats dematted and have been de-flead, de-wormed. Their various ailments are being treated and each dog is being assessed prior to being rehomed.

We hope potential adopters of these dogs and cats will understand that as we visit each potential home prior to adoption, we will be looking for homes within a 30 mile radius of our veterinary clinics and sanctuary.

West Sussex Cats safe in our sanctuary The cats are all settling in at our Hastings sanctuary. They are fairly shy and we are trying to reassure them and gain their confidence. They have been de-wormed, de-flead, and neutered, vaccinated and microchipped and we are now looking to rehome them in pairs.

Seeing them beginning to relax in their comfortable surroundings, eat well and blossom into beautiful cats as picturted here makes everything worthwhile.

Enjoying space, fresh air and sun!

Update 2nd May

We are pleased to be able to report that the rescued Yorkies are doing very well.

We faced a major task in the first few days just cleaning the dogs. It took our staff and volunteers about 90 minutes per dog to clip, with scissors, the matted clumps of hair and faeces from each dog. (We could not use electric clippers because the dogs had sore skin).

Then, we could give them their first ever baths. They clearly felt so much better afterwards.

Joe, one of the puppies, in his new home - my ears are a bit  big!  but big is beautiful so my mum says!!! Each dog has required a 7 day worming course, as not only did they have the usual roundworms and tapeworms, but also lungworm. Individually, different dogs have needed treatments such as:
-a course of antibiotics
-ear cleaning and ointments

This is before we could commence the lengthy but routine task of neutering each adult dog, microchipping, vaccinating and, for many of the dogs, dental work. This is still ongoing.

Many people have asked if many of the dogs have had to be put to sleep. We are pleased to tell you that none of the dogs we rescued have been put to sleep, and nor do we expect to lose any. CHAT has a non-destruction policy. We do not put animals to sleep unless they are terminally ill and suffering.
Just arrived at our East Sussex Sanctuary The healthier dogs have been moved to our sanctuary (near Hastings), once they were neutered. Our sanctuary staff have been busy getting to know the dogs individually and assessing them.

Our rehoming staff and volunteers have been returning phonecalls and emails to the (approx.) 3000 enquiries and offers of homes. We have received many lovely offers from all over the country, and indeed the world.

Rescued We have received so many kind messages of support and offers of homes from around the U.K and abroad. There have literally been over 3000 enquiries! CHAT staff and volunteers have worked round the clock to try and respond to as many calls and emails as possible, whilst still trying to carry out our usual day-to-day rescue and rehoming work.

We have been really pleased to receive so many wonderful offers of homes and appreciate them all. Obviously there are not enough dogs for all the suitable offers of homes.

If you have not been one of the homes chosen to home one or two of the dogs, please do offer a home to another needy dog at your local rescue centre. There are thousands of dogs and cats in rescue centre's across the U.K waiting for you to offer them a second chance.
Thank you.
Shelbie and charley

14th May 2006

We are beginning to receive heart warming updates on the first Yorkies CHAT has rehomed. Please see our HAPPY ENDINGS page where we will be posting updates from their new homes.

Maisie having fun in her new home

11th May Update

Many of the Yorkies have now been rehomed. Pictured here is Maisie who has been homed with Sue one of our supporteres and her other Yorkie Alfie

Celia Hammond with one of the Rescued Yorkies

Answering some of your most asked questions:

When our staff and volunteers have been speaking to concerned callers, many of the same questions are being asked.

How did this situation go unnoticed?
The Puppy Farm was in a country lane with no immediate neighbours.
The 60ft shed was sited behind the house of the owner, Mrs Elizabeth Stevens. The house and front garden were well maintained and would not suggest anything untoward.Her family say they did not go in the shed or notice the condition of the 39 cats crammed into only slightly better conditions in three cattery pens in the back garden.

Was this just an elderly lady who hadn't neutered her animals, and the situation had got out of control and she couldn't cope?
No. The owner, Mrs Elizabeth Stevens, had been a dog breeder for many years. Under a second name, Anne Vondehague, she had registered 168 litters of puppies with the Kennel Club, UK, in the late 1990's.
We have been contacted by several people who bought puppies from Mrs Stevens. These people stated that they had viewed the puppies in her house which was clean and tidy - They didn't see the shed.

Where were the dogs kept, and how did nobody hear the barking, or notice the terrible smell?
The dogs were housed in a 60ft long shed.
The shed was divided into 20 kennel pens.
Additionally, there was a small kitchen and storeroom. The only window was a small perspex window at the far end.
The shed was constructed with airvents which were all closed off when the dogs were rescued. There were over 100 plastic pet voyager baskets in the shed. These baskets are intended for pet transportation only, but, when we attended, many dogs were locked in them. There was originally electricity and lighting, which when we attended, was not working, and appeared to have broken down some time ago. On arrival, the shed was padlocked. By keeping the door shut, the smell and sound were effectively contained.

How can someone do this?
You have all asked us this question.
We don't know the answer.
We frequently help people who love their animals but are unable to care for them or themselves. Typically, their homes deteriorate and their mental or physical health is usually poor. Although they may live in squalid conditions, you can see that they are not intentionally cruel. Mrs Stevens home and garden were well tended and clean. We have been told by some of her former customers that she sold puppies for between ?350 and ?400 each.

Are there any regulations to prevent this?
Anyone with more than 5 breeding bitches needs a breeding licence this is issued by the local council. Mid Sussex District Council was responsible for issuing a breeding license to Mrs Stevens and carrying out inspections. When Mrs Stevens licence expired in 1998 she did not renew it and was asked to reduce the number of dogs.
The council did not check on her again.

Is this an isolated incident?
We don't think so.
Many people have heard of the terrible conditions discovered in Welsh and Irish puppy farms but how widespread is this?
We are hearing many worrying and upsetting stories from people who have bought pedigree puppies. Pedigree puppies are being sold for large amounts of money, Yorkie puppies are being sold for £400- £500 each! This means there is plenty of money to be made by unscrupulous people.

Frequently newly purchased pedigree puppies are rushed to our London clinics very unwell, many do not survive, Parvo virus, heavy worm infestations and diarrhoea amongst the complaints. The stories are often the same, people call a classified advert they are then offered 'cut price' puppies the seller usually has several breeds to choose from. They arrange to meet in a car park or at a motorway service station, some sellers will deliver to your door!

Of those where people have gone to the breeders premesis we hear of multiple litters often in unclean cramped conditions. Often a puppy is purchased to 'rescue' it from the circumstances. Sick and below standard puppies are sold cheaply.

Even where conditions may be considered satisfactory the bitches are still being used as breeding machines living their lives in kennels producing litter after litter of puppies.

If you buy a pedigree puppy you do not know what misery you are funding you do not know what lies out of sight out the back.

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