An animal welfare charity has branded a north-east pair who caused “unnecessary suffering” to scores of dogs “absolutely disgraceful”.
Frank James from Banff and Michelle Wood from Macduff were convicted of failing to provide proper care and treatment for almost 90 dogs, as well as rabbits and ferrets, at East Mains of Ardlogie, near Fyvie.
The pair had gone on trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court earlier this year, facing a charge of causing unnecessary suffering and animal neglect and yesterday they were found guilty.
James and Wood were arrested and charged following a joint Scottish SPCA and police raid at their farm in November 2017.
Animal welfare officers seized 105 animals, including 87 dogs, the youngest of which was just a few days old.
They were found in squalid conditions, where urine and faeces had not been cleared up.
Among the long list of allegations the pair faced were that the animals in their care had been left with eye, ear, skin and urinary conditions.
Some were also found to be “emaciated” or had suffered chemical burns.
The pair were also charged with failing to provide adequate ventilation, bedding, hydration, nutrition and exercise for the animals and failing to protect the animals from disease.
Many were discovered to be plagued with ear mites and intestinal disorders after they were rescued.
Throughout his evidence, 54-year-old James – who was already banned from keeping more than two dogs at a time during at least part of the period the farm was in operation – insisted he had not been responsible for the day-to-day care of the animals.
But he also admitted that he had lived on the site, paid for pet food and taken dogs to the vet.
Evidence from veterinarians and the SSPCA identified James as the man they had dealt with when they visited the farm.
James claimed that he had a peripheral role, offering some advice to Wood, who he said ran the farm on behalf of his daughter, Elizabeth.
Wood’s solicitor Leonard Burkenshaw, meanwhile, argued she was a “patsy” for James.
Sheriff Sukhwinder Gill dismissed James’ evidence and said it was clear to her that he was trying to divert blame.
She said: “I have to say I found his evidence was not credible or reliable. I found his evidence to be a tissue of lies.
“Not only was he responsible for the running of the farm but he has tried to divert the responsibility onto his co-accused.”
Wood and James were found guilty of offences committed between October 20, 2017 and November 14, 2017 and will be sentenced next month.
James faces the prospect of a prison sentence due to his previous convictions.
An undercover investigator for the SSPCA said: “We believe this was the largest-scale puppy farming operation in Scotland.
“The conditions these dogs were being kept in were absolutely disgraceful.
“They fell far below the minimum standard in terms of animal welfare and, given the environment and sheer volume of puppies, it was immediately evident these were not being kept as pets and the premises was effectively a battery farm for pups.
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“Our investigation revealed dogs on site were being intensively bred with little or no regard for their welfare.”
James previously ran a farm on the site until it was shut down by the SSPCA in March 2013.
More than 70 dogs were seized. Many had lice, skin sores, matted hair and cysts on their paws.
James and two of his relatives admitted welfare offences in October 2014 and were banned from keeping more than two dogs at a time for the next three years.