Father and daughter handed licence ban after video shows pets being hit at Lancashire dog day care centre

A father and daughter who were involved in the running of a Lancashire doggy day care centre have been sentenced after videos emerged on social media showing dogs being hit and smacked.

By Phil Cunnington
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 11:30 am

Lauren Walker, 31, and her father, 69-year-old John Walker, pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences following an investigation by the RSPCA into Mucky Pups Doggy Day Care.

Both have now been banned from holding a council animal welfare licence so are unable to run a similar business. John Walker was given a 10-year ban on holding such a licence and Lauren Walker a five-year ban.

Hyndburn Borough Council previously revoked Mucky Pup's licence in February 2020, while the RSPCA carried out a full investigation into the abuse allegations.

A still from a video shown to court which appeared to show John Walker, from RIshton, striking dogs at the Mucky Pups Doggy Day Care centre in the town, near Burnley. John Walker and his daughter Lauren have been sentenced after pleading guilty to animal welfare offences.

Burnley Magistrates Court previously heard how the day care business for pets, on Harwood Road in RIshton, near Burnley, was run by Lauren and she employed her father to work at the centre.

But a complaint was made to the animal welfare charity on December 24, 2019 by a former employee who had taken video footage of dogs at the centre being hit and smacked by John Walker. The videos emerged on social media and were subsequently shared.

John Walker, of Greenhill, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to protected animals, namely seven dogs, by the inappropriate use of physical force, between September 10, 2019 and November 19, 2019 and failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the animals were met between August 1, 2019 and December 18, 2019.

Lauren Walker, of Knowles Street, Rishton, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable steps to prevent unnecessary suffering by her father John Walker to protected animals.

RSPCA Inspector Adam Dickinson, who led the investigation, told the court how following the videos appearing on social media and reports in the local press the owners of the dogs shown on camera came forward to provide witness statements.

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“In the first video, for example, the adult male individual restrains a black Labrador type dog by holding the dog’s collar with his left hand while he strikes the dog three times with his right hand. The dog vocalises and the male throws the dog away using the collar. The body language of the dog is fearful submission with no aggression.

“In my opinion the actions of the adult male individual have been sufficiently influential on the welfare of some of these animals to the extent that has caused them to experience suffering.”

As well as the ban on holding a licence at a sentencing hearing held at Blackpool Magistrates Court yesterday, John Walker was given a 12-month community order, including 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a 26-week curfew from 7pm to 7am. He was also ordered to pay £200 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.

Lauren Walker was also given a 12-month community order, including a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement and must serve a five-week curfew between the hours of 7pm and 7am. She was also ordered to pay £200 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.

Following the sentencing, Inspector Dickinson said the case highlighted how important reward based training is for dogs.

He said: “The RSPCA only promotes positive, reward-based training methods and does not condone this sort of behaviour in order to train dogs or to tell them off.

Training dogs is important to help them learn to behave appropriately and to make it easier to keep them under control.

“Reward based training which includes the use of things that dogs like or want for example. Toys, food and praise is enjoyable for the dog and is widely regarded as the preferred form of training dogs.

Training which includes physical punishment may cause pain, suffering and distress. These techniques can compromise dog welfare, lead to aggressive responses and worsen the problems they aim to address.”