A couple who ran a ‘brutal’ business selling puppies from their home have been caught flouting a lifetime ban on keeping animals – less than eight months after it was imposed.
Neil and Debbie Harper were disqualified from keeping animals after each pleaded guilty to 14 charges of animal cruelty.
They also admitted one charge of running an illegal pet shop in October last year.
The pair had kept the puppies in cages without heating or water next to their TV, while attempting to sell them to the public from their home.
They were hauled before the courts after an extensive investigation into the commercial selling of puppies who were dealt with in a ‘brutal’ way.
Officials swooped on their home in Marnham Road, West Bromwich, for a second time earlier this year after receiving a tip-off. The couple were found with three dogs and two cats, breaching the ban.
At Sandwell Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Mr Harper, aged 46, and his 30-year-old wife pleaded guilty to breaching the banning order on six occasions from February 1 to May 14.
The court was told that in May, the RSCPA and police carried out a search using a warrant on the couple’s home, finding three dogs and two cats, which were discovered caged.
When they were being interviewed, both Mr and Mrs Harper said they did not believe they were breaching their order. They claimed the animals belonged to Mrs Harper’s father.
Mr Omar Sadique, defending, said the pair had not fully understood the banning order when it was read out in court.
He said the couple had been married for 11 years and said Mrs Harper, who also pleaded guilty to a breach of a suspended sentence, suffered from depression.
Magistrates gave the pair a 16-week prison sentence each, suspended for a year because of the family situation and Mrs Harper’s health.
Mr Harper was also ordered to do 200 hours’ unpaid work. Mrs Harper received a 12-month supervision order which included a spell at an activity centre for vulnerable women. The pair were also each both ordered to pay £200 court costs and £80 victim surcharge.
Speaking about their sentences last October, Mr Dingle Clark, prosecuting, said:“The prosecution came from an extensive investigation into the selling of puppies who were dealt with in a brutal way.”
The RSPCA said at the time it wanted to send out a message that people found mistreating animals would face ‘stiff penalties’.