A SHOCKING BBC Wales documentary screened on Monday night (Sept 30) laid bare the extent of the puppy farming scandal in West Wales.
This newspaper has repeatedly reported on the cruelty of puppy farming and the Lucy’s Law campaign and is not surprised by the content of the BBC Wales Investigates programme, anchored by Wyre Davies.
With the resources at its disposal, BBC Wales was able to dig deeper into links between breeders, vets, and how licensed premises are permitted to keep open despite serious animal welfare issues.
SYSTEMIC FAILURES IN ANIMAL WELFARE
One veterinary practises, Towy Vets of Carmarthen, was shown to have listed a dog as fit for breeding even though it also recorded it as dead. Animals as young as three months old were also shown as ready for breeding.
A breeder based in Carmarthenshire, Alun Douch, alleged that he had administered the parvo-virus vaccine to animals himself, having bought it from Towy Vets.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon rules provides that a dog can only be vaccinated after a medical inspection by a qualified vet.
The medical records for the parvo vaccine’s administration must have been lacking as Mr Douch later sold a puppy to a Swansea woman which had to be destroyed because it suffered from the highly contagious and lethal disease.
When the dog’s buyer contacted the breeder, Alun Douch of Tywi Vale, Nantgaredig, she alleged that Mr Douch offered to administer antibiotics to the animal.
A Council inspection document revealed that there was an ongoing problem with parvo-virus at Mr Douch’s breeding establishment.
The same document-related that an inspector had seen Mr Douch kick a dog during the inspection.
Mr Douch continued holding a licence in spite of that incident.
In a statement to the BBC, solicitors acting for Mr Douch denied ‘any cruelty to any animal’.
An expert panel assembled by the BBC which examined the cases used in the programme expressed serious concerns about animal health and welfare and questioned the rigour of the inspection regime and enforcement.
The BBC report that a senior vet – Mike Jessop – who is brought in by local authorities to advise on welfare issues, told the broadcaster there were clear examples where some professional colleagues have been “found wanting”.
He said he would be making a referral to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons regarding the evidence in the programme.
In a statement on its website, Towy Vets said: ‘In relation to the BBC Wales Investigates television programme broadcast on 30th September 2019, a specific health report given to a Carmarthenshire licensed breeder was referenced. We are unfortunately unable to discuss client cases and share any of the background detail to the referenced report, and handwritten notes on that report.
‘Towy Vets passionately believe that breeding should be done within strict animal welfare guidelines and expect our vets to follow the RCVS code of conduct. We would welcome further dialogue with Carmarthenshire Council on the regulation of breeding.’
MP CALLS FOR DECISIVE ACTION
In 2018, Carmarthenshire became one of the first local authorities in Wales to adopt Lucy’s Law.
Lucy’s Law aims to ban third-party puppy and kitten sales, ensuring stronger protections for animals.
However, the problem in West Wales appears to be not only with unlicensed breeders but also with the activities of licensed ones.
Jonathan Edwards MP, who wrote to the Labour Welsh Government to address the poor animal welfare issues raised on the programme, developed that point.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards said: “My constituents are very concerned that this remains an ongoing issue in Wales. It is my understanding that these terrible events took place on licensed premises. It appears that licences have been issued to people who do not have the welfare of these dogs at heart.
I have written to the Welsh Government to press them for immediate, decisive action to stop these farms from operating in such a terrible manner. An investigation is also required for these unscrupulous activities. It seems clear to me that the current regulations under this government are inadequate.”
AM QUESTIONS ‘FAILING’ SYSTEM
Mid and West Regional Labour AM Joyce Watson raised the harrowing programme in First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd.
Ms Watson commended the BBC for showing ‘cruelty beyond belief in council-registered puppy farms’.
The AM continued: “It showed hundreds of dogs living in filthy, dark, damp and cold conditions. These premises are inspected annually by inspectors and vets, people who are supposed to prioritise the welfare of the animals.
A number of premises have been inspected and found wanting, with breaches concerning poor animal welfare logged by inspectors and vets.
This wasn’t a one-off, they had consistently failed to meet recommendations and had been issued with warnings. Despite this, no action was taken against the breeders and licences were reissued year on year.
In some instances, not even basic needs were being met, such as in one site near Llandysul that featured in the programme.”
In that case, a dog was given to undercover workers from a rescue charity. After a vet inspected the animal, a dead puppy was found undelivered and emergency surgery needed to save the animal’s life.
Joyce Watson continued: “The legislation that is in place to protect these dogs is failing. The sheer volume of upheld complaints suggests that something is radically wrong in this process. Minister, I’d like to know what immediate action the Welsh Government are taking, in light of this report, to protect the welfare of both the puppies and the adult dogs at the puppy farms featured in this programme. And it’s clear to me, from the response that I’ve had swiftly overnight, that these authorities are overwhelmed.”
Responding on the Welsh Government’s behalf, Trefynydd Rebecca Evans told AMs she and other AMs shared Joyce Watson’s horror at the programme’s content.
Ms Evans said: The Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs [Lesley Griffiths AM] has written — or intends to very shortly — to veterinary bodies, and also to local authorities about this specific issue. She’s meeting with the chief veterinary officer tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 2). But I also know that the Minister intends to ask the animal welfare framework group to revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions at breeding establishments.”
TIME IS THE KILLER
How long that will take is anybody’s guess, in the meantime animals are still suffering in both licensed and unlicensed puppy farms in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere.
An illustration of the current regulatory regime’s shortcomings is shown by the case of Sylvia Griffiths, the owner of Glenview Kennels in Llandyfaelog, who continued to breed and sell puppies despite being refused a licence by Carmarthenshire County Council.
Griffiths held a breeding licence for Glenview since 1998, originally granted for up to 23 adult dogs.
However, when she applied to renew her licence in July 2016, animal health officers visited and found 74 adult dogs on the premises in overcrowded conditions with no free access to exercise areas.
Despite being given time to address conditions and warned that a failure to bring about necessary improvements to animal welfare, when council officers returned to her premises in December 2016 they found that conditions had not improved sufficiently to permit Griffiths to continue holding a licence.
Notwithstanding the officers’ findings, Griffiths continued to defy the law and breed dogs for sale.
It took a complaint from a concerned customer in May 2017, however, for the Council to take further action.
It was over a year later, on July 20, 2018, that Griffiths was ordered to pay £13,500 in fines and costs for continuing to breed and sell puppies illegally.
UK’s top skaters and riders drop in on Llanelli youngsters to celebrate a special birthday
THE WORLD’S and the UK’s finest skateboarders, BMX and Wheelchair Motocross stars will drop in on young people at a Carmarthenshire Ramps skatepark on Saturday 19 October 2019 from 11 am till 2 pm.
The event was arranged to celebrate the £3 billion National Lottery players have raised for projects which have specifically helped children and young people develop and thrive in the UK over the last 25 years.
£2 million of National Lottery funding has specifically been awarded to support and develop over 47 BMX projects in local communities for young people in Wales to enjoy.
Wales and Pembrokeshire’s own wheelchair sports superstar, Lily Rice; the Olympic BMX freestyler from Swansea, James Jones; Britain’s leading street skateboarder and 2020 Olympic hopeful, Alex Decunha; and YouTube influencer, Jake O’Neill (aka Jake100), visite hundreds of youngsters at Ramps indoor and outdoor skatepark in Llanelli as part of the National Lottery’s celebrations.
More than £340,000 was awarded by the National Lottery in 2013 to develop and build Ramps Skatepark which now provides activities for over 15,000 young people a year.
At 15 years old, Lily Rice from Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, is a World Champion wheelchair motocross (WCMX) star. She was propelled to fame two years ago when she became the first female in Europe to achieve a wheelchair backflip, and only the second girl in the world to pull off the stunt. Since then, Lily has emerged as one of the global leaders of WCMX – wheelchair motocross.
She says: “By contributing towards building amazing facilities such as this indoor and outdoor skate park, National Lottery funding is helping thousands of young people of all abilities to reach their goals and discover new opportunities.
I have trained and practised at numerous National Lottery funded skate parks and there is no doubt that the funding has helped wheeled sports, enthusiasts, to become healthier and more active.”
The National Lottery has inspired millions of people to get active in their local community, as well as supporting individuals and teams from grassroots to elite.
James Jones is a 25-year-old professional BMX rider from Swansea. James, who also celebrated his 25th Birthday this year, is one of six world-class athletes who make up the Freestyle BMX Team GB for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James honed his skills and practised his tricks at the Ramps skate park in Llanelli when he was growing up and highlights the importance of young people having access to facilities like this on their doorstep.
James Jones said: “I practised a lot here growing up and this facility has played a big part in my development as a professional rider and a person. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I got here. It’s not just about learning to ride or skate, there’s a real family vibe here, a great social aspect and it’s well supported by the community.
The National Lottery must fund parks such as this one so that young people can have a safe space to pursue their hobbies and meet friends.”
First year anniversary for Transport for Wales
TODAY, Transport for Wales reaches its first- year anniversary since taking responsibility for rail services across Wales and the Borders, which marked the beginning of their £5 billion investment programme.
Over the past twelve months, TfW have put the customer at the heart of their decisions and as a thank you to them, they’re offering 20% off advance tickets bought between 14 and 20 October for travel up until 26 November.
Some of the key highlights over the year include the creation of the advanced fare initiative, making it cheaper for journeys over 50 miles; delay repay 15 was launched so that customers can claim for delays of 15 minutes or more and the implementation of new performance measures designed to provide a more reliable and punctual service.
TfW also began their £194 million plan to improve every railway station across their network and committed to spend more than £600,000 a year on Community Rail Partnerships, creating community ambassador roles, that will be responsible for promoting regional tourism and local economic growth.
Embedded video on YouTube
James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said;
“It has been an exciting and challenging first year and we are proud to have started transforming the rail service for the people of Wales through delivering on our promises.
“We are implementing some ambitious programmes that will help us to improve the customer experience. Work has started on our railway stations; modernising them, making them safer and more accessible for local businesses and communities. We successfully reintroduced regular passenger services along the Halton Curve, providing 215 new services per week and connecting Wrexham with Liverpool by rail for the first time in 40 years.
“We have introduced additional trains to our network and our December timetable change will bring further increases in capacity across our busiest routes.
“Behind the scenes, there has been detailed planning and preparation work going on for the delivery of Metro services across Wales, the introduction of brand-new trains and the vision to create a fully integrated transport network.
“As well as our customers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff for their dedication over the year and also thank the partners and businesses that we’ve worked with.”
Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport, said:
“One year into our ambitious journey of rail improvement I believe it is important to recognise the progress that has been made. There have been the start of new services and new advanced fares and we will soon see extra capacity being added to some of our busiest lines. We’ve also outlined an ambitious £194m package of investment to improve every station in Wales.
“It’s clear that there are significant challenges and this journey will take time, but we have ambitious plans to transform transport across Wales to deliver a fully integrated network, with customers at the heart of everything. We have outlined a vision for a transformed railway across Wales – including the development of Metro systems – and Transport for Wales will continue to have an essential role to play in helping to deliver this.”
Eluned Morgan visits Llanelli for Mental Health
TO mark World Mental Health Day, Labour Assembly Member Eluned Morgan has visited Llanelli’s LINKS mental health charity to raise awareness of her #IPledge2Talk campaign.
LINKS is a unique to Llanelli support service providing assistance and learning opportunities to those within our community who have or are experiencing mental ill-health.
Earlier this year, the AM for Mid and West Wales launched in the Senedd her “I Pledge 2 Talk” campaign. In response to the growing concern over male suicide, the Eluned Morgan has turned her focus to encouraging people who feel down to seek help, and providing confidence to others to be a mental health ally.
Speaking after her visit, Eluned said: “I was really pleased to be able to meet the team at LINKS on Queen Victoria Road. They have and continue to provide a range of services to help people manage their mental health. They understand the importance of talking to improve mental health and helping others to open up.
“We all have our part to play in reaching out and offering support to those in need by providing an opportunity to talk. We know that if someone is having suicidal thoughts, receiving support from someone else can make a big difference.
“Many people feel unable to talk about mental health due to the stigma that surrounds admitting there’s a problem – we need to overcome this – we can all play a part in helping others feel comfortable enough to seek help without fear of being judged.
“I have launched a website to support the #IPledge2Talk campaign – find out more and how to get involved at www.ipledge2talk.wales.”
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