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Gumtree puppy breeder sold seriously ill puppies with heart murmurs and pneumonia

Stacy McPhee and Alfredo, one of the sick puppies she sold.
Stacy McPhee and Alfredo, one of the sick puppies she sold.

A breeder who sold seriously ill puppies – including one with pneumonia – on Gumtree has been banned from keeping dogs.

Stacy McPhee sold puppies Brodie, Alfredo and Roxy claiming they had all been checked by a vet – but all three suffered from serious illnesses including heart murmurs.

One was even left “shaking uncontrollably” with pneumonia, which McPhee, 23, brushed off as a “cough” due to her having a “short nose”.

Alfredo was seriously ill when McPhee sold him.

Witnesses paid hundreds of pounds for the dogs and quickly discovered the health problems after taking the puppies home – but McPhee ignored their attempts to contact her.

Brodie was found to have ear mites and a heart murmur

Sheriff Margaret Hodge declined to hear a narrative of events read in open court, but the document, seen by the Evening Express, states a witness and her partner replied to an advert on Gumtree advertising cockapoo puppies for sale in the Inverurie area on December 10 2019.

The advert, posted by McPhee under the false name “Sarah”, stated all puppies were microchipped and vet checked and were selling for £600.

Later the same day the witness attended an address in Ellon to view the puppies.

After asking about vaccination details, McPhee said she would speak to the vet who would send on the information.

McPhee, who was still using the name Sarah, then handed the couple a microchip card and number.

After buying the puppy, which they named Brodie, the couple returned home but quickly noticed he was “constantly itching his ears”.

They took Brodie to Ashgrove Vets on December 11 where he was found to have ear mites and a heart murmur, as well as not being microchipped.

The vet’s suspicions were raised and there were fears Brodie may have originated from a puppy farm.

Brodie was given treatment but three days later his owner noticed he was suffering from diarrhoea and passing blood.

A second visit to the vet confirmed Brodie was suffering from Giardia, a parasite of the gut lining, and the vet suspected he had not been vaccinated.

The vet concluded Brodie had “likely been in considerable discomfort for some time while on the breeder’s premises”.

The couple shelled out £455 in vet fees and received no response from McPhee when they tried to inform her Brodie was ill.

They also never received the promised vaccination information.

Little Alfredo’s ‘poor start to life’

In a second incident, a witness replied to a Gumtree post advertising “Cavachon puppies”, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise cross, for sale in Inverurie for £550.

The post, this time under the name “Arron”, said the puppies were microchipped and vet checked.

Little Alfredo.

The witness and her husband went to see the puppy at the same Ellon address on  December 29 2019 and were met by McPhee, who told them the little dog was chipped and vaccinated.

They bought the animal, who they called Alfredo, for £550 and took him home on January 3, soon after noticed he was suffering from bloody diarrhoea.

The puppy was taken to Mintlaw veterinary practice and diagnosed with a heart murmur, Giardia and also Isosproa, an intestinal infection.

Alfredo was seriously ill

The vet concluded Alfredo “suffered unnecessarily as a result of his poor start in life”, adding: “His poor body condition and low bodyweight indicate that he had likely been suffering from the diarrhoea before he was sold, probably for at least a few days.”

There was no indication any vet attention had been sought before Alfredo was sold, with his new owners not being advised of his condition and having to pay almost £300 for treatment.

McPhee again did not respond to attempts to contact her by Alfredo’s owners.

Roxy was sold with pneumonia

In a third incident, another witness replied to a Gumtree ad for “King Charles” pups for sale in Aberdeen for £550.

The witness arranged to see the puppy on January 27 2020 and McPhee said the animal had been vet checked.

When viewing the puppy, the witness noticed she had a cough, but McPhee said it was because she had a “short nose” and that her mother was the same.

McPhee said the puppy, named Roxy, was microchipped and the witness bought her for £550 and took her home.

The witness became increasingly concerned about the “chesty” cough on the way home, and on arrival Roxy began to “shake uncontrollably”.

Accused left with ‘no option’ by partner

An emergency vet appointment was made, and a surgeon was concerned Roxy was suffering from “severe aspiration pneumonia” and recommended she remain at the clinic as she could become “oxygen dependent”.

There were also signs of the Giardia antigen.

Roxy spent days being being nursed in a hospital at a cost of £500 and “may end up having lifelong consequences from this poor start in her life”, the vet predicted.

Again there was no evidence that McPhee had sought vet attention for Roxy, and again ignore calls from the buyers.

Stacy McPhee hid her face as she hurried away from court today.

McPhee pled guilty to three charges of causing puppies unnecessary suffering by failing to provide appropriate care and treatment or get veterinary advice.

During the hearing at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, defence agent Jennifer Pritchard said her client’s partner left her feeling like she had “no option” other than to breed the puppies and assist him with that.

She added: “It’s not a relationship where she would be in a position to question him.

“She fully accepts, despite that, she should have paid greater attention to these puppies.”

McPhee caused ‘immeasurable heartbreak’

Ms Pritchard said McPhee was “extremely regretful” and “ashamed” that the animals had suffered ill health and the buyers suffered distress.

She added her client had experienced “negatives” after her address was published on social media.

Sheriff Hodge told McPhee: “I’m persuaded you’re perhaps a vulnerable person and perhaps being taken advantage of.”

She ordered McPhee, whose address was given in court papers as Aquhorthies Circle, Inverurie, to be supervised for six months and banned her from keeping dogs for three years.

Following the hearing McPhee hid her face as she left court and, asked if she was sorry for causing the dogs suffering, remained silent.

An SSPCA spokeswoman said: “We welcome the sentence and the three-year ban is an ideal disruption tactic for someone such as McPhee who was a prolific offender and caused immeasurable heartbreak to people who bought sick animals from her.

“We would urge members of the public not to buy from individuals like McPhee as no thought is given to the welfare of the animal; only how much money can be made.”

A spokesman for Gumtree said: “We take the welfare of animals extremely seriously and we do not tolerate the use of our platform by bad actors. We worked closely with the SSPCA to support their investigation into this matter and are pleased to see that the offender has been brought to justice.

“All ads on our platform have a ‘report’ button, which we strongly encourage prospective buyers to use immediately if they have any doubts or suspicions about a seller, or any concerns about an animal’s welfare. Our dedicated safety team will then investigate and take necessary actions, such as removing the ad, blocking the offender from the site and assisting law enforcement to secure convictions.

“We work with Pets Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) – the UK’s trade body covering online animal sales made up of 25 welfare organisations including Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats, SSPCA and DEFRA among others – to comply with all of their 27 standards. These industry-endorsed standards improve animal welfare in an ecommerce environment.

“We encourage anyone thinking of welcoming an animal into their family to familiarise themselves with our advice on safely rehoming pets online.”

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