Illegal dog breeder given six month suspended sentence

A woman from Wardy Hill who illegally bred designer dogs in squalid conditions to profit from inflated prices during the Covid lockdowns has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence. She’s also been banned from owning/keeping or controlling animals for 10 years.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard Jackie Draper, 38, who now lives in March, had failed to meet the basic care needs of 44 dogs and puppies crammed into her rented semi-detached house. None had access to water, and there were faeces and urine scattered throughout the property and broken glass and faeces in the garden.

The court also heard that Ms Draper had bred 23 litters of puppies over the Covid period – many of which were underweight and required veterinary care – some with price tags as high as £5,000.

Ms Draper pleaded guilty to three charges brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which relate to dog breeding and advertising the sale of dogs without a necessary licence, failing to meet the five welfare needs of 44 dogs and causing unnecessary suffering to a male chocolate Cocker Spaniel puppy named Ronnie.

An East Cambridgeshire District Council dog warden and an RSPCA officer first attended Ms Draper’s home in August 2020 following complaints of sick puppies being sold at the property. On arrival they found underweight French Bulldogs, a female Pomeranian, Boston Terriers and Poodles.

Ms Draper was advised to cease trading immediately as she did not have a licence and instructed to take all the French Bulldogs in her care to the vets as they were underweight and suffering from diarrhoea with blood in it. The defendant later emailed the council to say she intended to keep breeding but only once she had applied for a licence.

The court heard that no application for a breeding licence was ever made, but Ms Draper continued to breed and sell puppies. As a consequence, more visits and investigations took place.

This included liaising with online advertising platforms, accessing veterinary and stud records and taking statements from people who had purchased sick puppies. One advert from July 2020 was for a litter of 8 Cavapoochon puppies with price tags between £3,500 and £5,000 each.

Evidence provided by NatureWatch showed Ms Draper to be maintaining a social media account with nearly 2,000 members that she was using to advertise puppies.

In August 2022, a warrant was executed and inside her property police, council officers and a veterinary surgeon found 14 adult dogs, two of which were heavily pregnant, 14 older puppies and 16 newborn puppies.

One of the dogs recovered from the premises

23 of the dogs had a body score of 3 or lower, confirming they were underweight with visible bones and poor muscle mass. The 16 puppies were too young to receive a score.

Ronnie, a chocolate Cocker Spaniel puppy was so anaemic, malnourished and emaciated when he arrived at the vets he collapsed  and required emergency care. He was later given a body condition score of 1 out of 9.

Several dogs had major flea infestations and ear mites; a Jack Russell Terrier crossed with a Chihuahua puppy required intensive round the clock nursing and a Cockapoo was described as being the “worst case of grooming neglect” a dog groomer had seen in 15 years.

Daisy, a 7-year-old Cavachon in poor health was found to have been bred from on three consecutive occasions back-to-back, despite suffering from a seizure.

Further searches revealed that between 2020 and 2022 Ms Draper had bred more than 23 litters of puppies including Cavapoochons, French Bulldogs, Froodles, Standard Poodles, Dobermans, Cocker Spaniels and Cavapoos. Ultrasound equipment, breeding manuals and a business plan which showed Ms Draper expected to make a profit from a litter for four puppies was also found.

The court heard the scale and organisation of the activity demonstrated it was “deliberate, pre-planned, premeditated and motivated by profit with disregard to the needs of the dogs”. It also heard the defendant was “adequately aware” the level of care being provided to the dogs was not sufficient.

The court also heard Ms Draper who lived in a housing association property had been claiming Universal Credit throughout the period the offences took place.

In mitigation Ms Draper’s solicitor said she had been given the dogs from family members, she had taken some to the vets, and her ex-partner had been the driving force behind the breeding.

Sentencing her, District Judge Sheraton, said: “People who know me would not describe me as a dog lover, but I would never treat a dog as you have done so. You have described yourself as a dog lover but the way you have treated them is far from displaying that. Whatever the background, these decisions were yours to take. You have made money in the past and it is perfectly clear to me nothing has gone to these dogs. It may be that you have gone to the vets but these unsanitary conditions did not happen overnight. I have no doubt these offences merit a prison sentence; I just need to consider whether or not it should be suspended.”

For causing unnecessary suffering Ms Draper was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, and a two-month suspended sentence for each of the other two offences to run concurrently. She was also banned from keeping or looking after any animals for 10 years, ordered to attend 15 rehabilitation activities, attend 12 sessions of mental health counselling and complete 200 hours unpaid community-based work. She must also contribute £5,000 towards the £40,000 prosecution costs.

A spokesperson for East Cambridgeshire District Council confirmed all the rescued dogs had since been re-homed, including Ronnie and Daisy who are now cared for by two council officers.

“At East Cambridgeshire District Council we take concerns over animal welfare very seriously and we’re committed to ensuring a level playing field for licensed dog breeders.

“It is important that we take action against cruel and unscrupulous individuals who operate illegally, with no regard for the law or the welfare of the animals they are making money from.

“This case has been a great example of how council officers and agencies such as the RSPCA can work together to achieve a positive outcome.

“A huge thank you also goes to all of the vets, dog groomers, re-homing organisations and individuals involved in the care and re-homing of these dogs who made a very difficult situation much easier to deal with.”

Anyone who is looking to purchase a puppy is advised to carry out appropriate checks to ensure that the breeder is licensed. The public register for East Cambridgeshire is available on the council’s website.

Anyone thinking of purchasing a puppy should make sure they see the puppy interacting with its mother and siblings. Puppies must stay with their mother until they are eight-weeks-old. Ask to see photographs, microchip and vet records to show the person selling you the puppy has been involved in its care for the first eight weeks. If you have any doubts, walk away.

To report unlicensed dog breeders call 01353 665555 or email