Two puppy farmers who bred and sold sick dogs to families in Greater Manchester have been spared jail.
A court heard this week that Betty Burton, 35, and Jeff McDonagh, 38, conned unsuspecting members of the public out of an estimated £250,000 – with many of the dogs including Cavapoos, French Bulldogs, and Cocker Spaniels dying a short time after being sold.
It was revealed that out of the 42 puppies sold by the pair, fifteen tragically died, and all required veterinary treatment for different illnesses and health problems.
Following a trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court in February 2020, the pair from Telford, Shropshire, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, and they also pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences including causing unnecessary suffering to a certain animal, and failing to meet the needs of animals.
But both were spared jail for their evil crimes, with McDonagh said to be suffering from mental health issues.
The RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit, which is a specialist team that investigates serious and organised animal crime, launched an investigation in 2017 after reports were received from people who had bought sick puppies in the Greater Manchester area.
The adverts for the puppies had all appeared on the Pets4Homes website.
Kirsty Withnall – RSPCA SOU officer, who led the investigation – said: “All of the adverts suggested that the puppies were the offspring of a family pet, had been born in the home, and socialised with the family.
“We spoke to 11 people in connection with the first address – linked to Burton – that came to our attention [as] all of the buyers had been directed to a public phone box to call when they arrived to see the puppies.
“One person refused to buy the puppy when it didn’t resemble the dog she’d been sent a photo of, wasn’t with its mother and appeared scared and whimpering.
“Others bought cockapoos, cavapoos, dachshunds and pomeranians.”
A second Manchester address was then used and officers spoke to six members of the public who had bought puppies from the property – which is linked to both Burton and McDonagh.
Of these six dogs, three died.
Then, from 25 October 2017, the operation expanded to a third Manchester property and five properties across Telford, which were again, all linked to Burton and McDonagh, with Beagles, French Bulldogs, Cavapoos, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, and Cavaliers all sold.
“These sellers were incredibly professional and clever,” Ms Withnall added.
“They sold puppies from one address and moved onto the next before arousing suspicion. They used different names in adverts and on paperwork, different numbers and false postcodes which were either completely made up or were linked to local fast-food restaurants.
“Vaccination cards were falsified with Tippex so they could be re-used and buyers were misled about the source, breed, age and health of the puppies they were buying.”
The court heard that members of the public also raised concerns about a property in Telford.
A warrant was executed by West Mercia Police in November 2019, and 55 dogs and puppies were removed from the property on welfare grounds, with a further 26 puppies born in RSPCA care, bringing the total number of dogs to 81.
The court heard that the dogs were being kept in inappropriate, dirty conditions, with some being underweight and having health problems such as skin issues and untreated eye conditions.
Analysis of the online adverts from November 2015 to October 2018 showed that 22 different names were used to advertise 439 puppies, with a total sale value of more than £253,885.
McDonagh was sentenced to two years custody – suspended for 24 months – was also disqualified from owning dogs for life and cannot appeal the ban for five years, and must also undertake a community order including a mental health treatment requirement and 30 days rehabilitation requirement activity days.
Burton was sentenced to six months custody – suspended for 12 months – 30 rehabilitation activity requirements days, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge, as well as being banned from keeping animals for life and can not appeal her disqualification for two years.
The dogs were signed over to the RSPCA in December 2019 and have since all been rehomed.
Featured Image – RSPCA
Rudy’s is opening a new pizzeria and pizza school in the former Dawson’s Music site
A year on from the initial news that Rudy’s would be taking over the old Dawson’s Music site on Portland Street, bosses behind the chain of neighbourhood pizzerias have finally hinted towards the new site’s opening date.
Revealing it is set to open in Manchester city centre this spring, they also shared the news that the new 8,000sqft location will be home, not just to another restaurant, but also to Rudy’s very own pizza school.
Billed as a ‘world-class destination for pizzaiolo talent’, the new pizza academy will take just over half the space – providing a structured training programme to both experienced pizza chefs and novices. It is set to welcome over 100 pizza chefs in this first year.
The restaurant, meanwhile, will span the rest with room for 120 covers. It will be Rudy’s sixth pizza restaurant in Manchester.
The new location at Portland Street will also be the HQ for Rudy’s Bake at Home, back by popular demand.
Serving the perfect and classic Neapolitan pizza since 2015 from its original Rudy’s in Ancoats, the acclaimed pizzeria has since opened 16 sites across the UK, with the new 120-cover pizzeria in Portland Street being its sixth location in Manchester.
Born out of passion for pizza, Rudy’s follows the authentic Neapolitan tradition of pizza making, serving classic recipes such as Marinara, Margherita and Calabrese – all originating from Naples, the birthplace of pizza.
Rudy’s has been praised by many as one of the best pizzerias in the UK, it is renowned for its consistency and quality in Neapolitan pizza making. On a mission to pave the way in pizza making all accordance to a truly authentic Neapolitan technique, Rudy’s is proud to open Rudy’s Pizza Academy at the new Portland Street location.
Jos Goncalves, manager at Rudy’s Portland Street, said: “We are delighted to announce that our next Rudy’s pizzeria will be located on Manchester’s bustling Portland Street.
Manchester has been home to the Rudy’s famiglia since we first opened in Ancoats in 2015, and we can’t wait to open our latest pizzeria, with the addition of our first Pizza Academy in the city this spring”.
Featured image – Rudy’s
Watch as Ed Sheeran debuts new music for the first time ever at ‘intimate’ Manchester gig
Now normally, when an artist chooses to take some brand new material out on tour for the first time, they’ll test the waters with a few intimate shows.
Just recently, we’ve had both Fall Out Boy and Blossoms at Band on the Wall, The 1975 at Gorilla, and Jason Manford in a beer garden.
But for Ed Sheeran, his idea of ‘intimate’ is… the AO Arena. That super cosy 21,000-capacity venue. Ah.
After selling out FOUR nights at the Etihad Stadium last summer, though, the chance to see Ed on stage in an arena again is a novel one, and it sold out the venue in minutes.
The ‘Shape of You’ singer announced this surprise arena tour just weeks before he took to the stage, in support of his upcoming sixth album Subtract.
This mini tour kicked off in Manchester last night – meaning our city got to hear new track ‘Eyes Closed’ live for the first time ever.
You can watch the highlights from Ed Sheeran at the AO Arena in the video below