Three people have been convicted of animal cruelty offences after a dead pet was found at a home they were using as a puppy farm.
The RSPCA discovered the puppy and another who was suffering from an untreated fractured pelvis when they searched an address connected to three members of the same family - Julie, Patrick and Martin Ward - who inspectors believe were running the farm.
Julie and Patrick Ward, both of Windermere Court in Leigh, were found guilty of five charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and one of failing in their duty of a person responsible for an animal’s welfare.
Martin Ward, 32, of Douglas Road, Leigh, was also convicted of failing in his duty of a person responsible for an animal’s welfare.
None of the defendants attended court but all were convicted in their absence.
The charity had received a number of calls about the suspected farm, including from one customer who bought a puppy for £180 from Julie Ward, 33.
The puppy was named Bella but the day after the customer took her home, she suffered a seizure.
Tony Stock, prosecuting, said: “Bella was taken to the RSPCA hospital in Salford.
“The witness returned to the address of Julie Ward where she saw a number of puppies in the garden. Martin Ward then refunded her money.
“The puppy did not respond to treatment and had to be put to sleep on April 14, two days after she was purchased.
“Vet Sean Taylor said Bella was diagnosed with low blood sugar which often occurs when a puppy is removed too soon from its mother, before it is capable of feeding itself meaning it would have experienced weakness and fatigue.
“The puppy would have suffered as a consequence of being sold too young.”
The second offence concerns another puppy which after being sold for £300 was found to have an ear mite infestation.
The third offence involved a black and white terrier puppy which was found dead at the Douglas Road address by RSPCA inspectors during the execution of a warrant.
The puppy was later found to have died as a result of a gastrointestinal infection known as parvovirus.
They also found a tan and white terrier which is thought to have been suffering from a fractured pelvis for between seven and 10 days.
A third puppy was found to be suffering from pain in both ears caused by inflamed canals and an ear mite infestation.
The last charge concerned around five other puppies which the Wards failed to meet the needs of by not protecting them from pain, suffering, injury or disease and failing to address and treat ill health.
The charge brought against Martin Ward related to the sale of a Shih Tzu puppy who was purchased by a customer accompanied by an RSPCA inspector for £300.
Mr Stock adde: “There were various comings and goings between the two addresses and there were various items seized in addition to the dogs.
“This included around 13 mobile phones and two different sim cards.
“One of the phones had a label with Westie written on the back, another phone had a different breed and a third had Jack Russ written on the back.
“Puppy farmers regularly use different phones for different breeds to prevent arousing suspicion that they are selling a number of different breeds.”
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of all three defendants after magistrates found the case proved.
The RSPCA have asked that anyone with information about the Wards to call Inspector Pippa Boyd by calling 0300 1234 999.
She has also urged people to be mindful of where they are purchasing pets from. She said: “Make sure you go to an address and don’t meet sellers in a car park or somewhere else.
“Seeing where a puppy lives, and also its mum, will give you an indication of whether it has been looked after or not.
“Puppy farming is a big problem for us and people always say they had their suspicions. But it is devastating for the people who take these puppies home, fall in love with them and then they die.”