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Puppy farmers kept dozens of dogs in filth and squalor then sold them on Gumtree

More than 60 dogs and puppies were seized during the raid at the Hessin family's farm.
More than 60 dogs and puppies were seized during the raid at the Hessin family's farm.

A father and son have admitted running an illegal north-east puppy farm where dozens of disease-ridden dogs were neglected and forced to live in squalor.

Samuel Ronald Hessin, 49, and Samuel Arthur Hessin, 22, posed as legitimate breeders but sold animals who were suffering the effects of mental and physical neglect.

More than 60 dogs were found at the family’s property at Balnamoon Farm, near Keith, when it was raided in a joint operation involving the Scottish SPCA, Moray Council trading standards and Police Scotland.

Puppies were forced to live in filth-infested cages without proper hydration or heat and had e-coli infections, rancid skin conditions and infected sores.

The rogue dealers used fake names and multiple email addresses to advertise the dogs on websites like Gumtree and Freeads.

They pretended they were family pets or their offspring but were actually imported from Northern Ireland.

One of the dozens of dogs recovered from the illegal puppy farm.

The sheer number of animals recovered in the Balnamoon raid prompted the SSPCA to appeal for public donations to cover the costs of caring for them.

Neither man was present when their case called for a trial at Elgin Sheriff Court today but solicitors entered guilty pleas on their behalf.

The elder Hessin admitted failing to meet the suitable environmental needs of dogs and puppies at Balnamoon between May 31 2019 and September 9 2019.

That neglect included exposing puppies to faeces, diarrhoea, urine and generally unhygienic conditions. The pups also weren’t given proper ventilation, hydration and warmth and were starved of stimulus, exercise and adequate separation.

Puppies lived in squalor

Meanwhile, other dogs and puppies were subjected to inadequate birthing conditions and not allowed to “exhibit normal behaviour patterns” – a failure on their owner’s part to protect them from disease, injury and mental and physical suffering.

One puppy in Hessin Snr’s care was found underweight and with bloody diarrhoea, another was infected with e-coli and a third “smelled filthy” and had private parts encrusted with pus.

One of the dogs seized from the Hessin family farm near Keith.  Pictures Scottish SPCA.

He also admitted selling or advertising for sale more than 100 dogs without a licence to do so between December 3 2018 and September 9 2019 and being in possession of 56 dogs for the purpose of sale on the latter date.

Son also admitted charges

Samuel Hessin junior meanwhile admitted two different charges of misleading trading practices and causing the animals unnecessary suffering.

Between June 12 2019 and September 19 2019 he failed to provide proper care and veterinary treatment to 56 dogs and 12 puppies, who were found to be suffering from gastrointestinal, dental, respiratory, skin and parasitic diseases.

Three puppies – named Tiree, Danna and Calla – suffered chronic skin conditions including demodectic mange and bacterial and fungal infections causing hair loss and scaly, reddened and pustulated skin.

Danna needed surgery for her eye condition while another pup named Scarba had fractured teeth, an infected cut on her neck and an ear mite infestation.

Pretended to sell family-bred pets

The younger Hessin also admitted trading offences whereby he pretended to be selling family-bred dogs which were actually imported animals from Northern Ireland.

Between December 2 2018 and September 9 2019 he listed more than 100 dogs for sale on Gumtree and Freeads websites using 18 different names, 11 different email addresses and 18 different mobile numbers.

He also made misleading statements in the adverts giving the false impression that the dogs were family pets or offspring of family pets, the charge states.

Another of the puppies resuced from Balnamoon farm in September 2019. Photo: SSCPA.

The adverts also misleadingly claimed the animals were in good health and being sold through a legitimate business.

The charge adds: “The truth being that you were the breeder of dogs and did import dogs to Scotland from Northern Ireland and on June 12 2019 were in possession of 22 dogs and on September 19, 2019 were in possession of 56 dogs.

“All for the purpose of breeding dogs and for resale of said dogs for profit.”

Charity took dogs into care

Fiscal depute Emily Hood sought a deprivation and disqualification order against both men, meaning they could be banned from taking back the seized dogs or from keeping any in the future.

That motion was continued for consideration.

All sentencing options will remain open however courts have taken a hard line on similar offences in the past.

Aberdeenshire man Frank James was jailed for nine months back in 2019 after he was found running Scotland’s then-largest puppy farm near Fyvie.

One of the dogs who was rescued by the Scottish SPCA.

Sheriff David Sutherland said: “Given the nature of the offences and the possible sentences available I think it’s appropriate to get social work reports.”

Four members of the Hessin family were originally charged with animal neglect and trading standards offences.

Not guilty pleas tendered on behalf of Donna Hessin, 46, and Rachel Hessin, 24, were accepted by the Crown, clearing them of any involvement.

He deferred sentencing of both Hessin men, of Balnamoon Farm, Keith, until next month.

One of the Scottish SPCA undercover officers who was involved in the operation to bring the Hessins to justice said today: “We are pleased that Samuel Arthur Hessin and Samuel Ronald Hessin pled guilty today.

“We look forward to the sentencing, as this is a significant case where suffering was caused to a large number of animals for no other reason than profit.”

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