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Shocking puppy farm scandal exposed

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A SHOCKING BBC Wales documentary screened on Monday night (Sept 30) laid bare the extent of the puppy farming scandal in West Wales.

This newspaper has repeatedly reported on the cruelty of puppy farming and the Lucy’s Law campaign and is not surprised by the content of the BBC Wales Investigates programme, anchored by Wyre Davies.

With the resources at its disposal, BBC Wales was able to dig deeper into links between breeders, vets, and how licensed premises are permitted to keep open despite serious animal welfare issues.
<strong>
SYSTEMIC FAILURES IN ANIMAL WELFARE</strong>

One veterinary practises, Towy Vets of Carmarthen, was shown to have listed a dog as fit for breeding even though it also recorded it as dead. Animals as young as three months old were also shown as ready for breeding.

A breeder based in Carmarthenshire, Alun Douch, alleged that he had administered the parvo-virus vaccine to animals himself, having bought it from Towy Vets.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon rules provides that a dog can only be vaccinated after a medical inspection by a qualified vet.

The medical records for the parvo vaccine’s administration must have been lacking as Mr Douch later sold a puppy to a Swansea woman which had to be destroyed because it suffered from the highly contagious and lethal disease.

When the dog’s buyer contacted the breeder, Alun Douch of Tywi Vale, Nantgaredig, she alleged that Mr Douch offered to administer antibiotics to the animal.

A Council inspection document revealed that there was an ongoing problem with parvo-virus at Mr Douch’s breeding establishment.

The same document-related that an inspector had seen Mr Douch kick a dog during the inspection.

Mr Douch continued holding a licence in spite of that incident.

In a statement to the BBC, solicitors acting for Mr Douch denied ‘any cruelty to any animal’.

An expert panel assembled by the BBC which examined the cases used in the programme expressed serious concerns about animal health and welfare and questioned the rigour of the inspection regime and enforcement.

The BBC report that a senior vet – Mike Jessop – who is brought in by local authorities to advise on welfare issues, told the broadcaster there were clear examples where some professional colleagues have been “found wanting”.

He said he would be making a referral to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons regarding the evidence in the programme.

In a statement on its website, Towy Vets said: ‘In relation to the BBC Wales Investigates television programme broadcast on 30th September 2019, a specific health report given to a Carmarthenshire licensed breeder was referenced. We are unfortunately unable to discuss client cases and share any of the background detail to the referenced report, and handwritten notes on that report.

‘Towy Vets passionately believe that breeding should be done within strict animal welfare guidelines and expect our vets to follow the RCVS code of conduct. We would welcome further dialogue with Carmarthenshire Council on the regulation of breeding.’

<strong>MP CALLS FOR DECISIVE ACTION</strong>

In 2018, Carmarthenshire became one of the first local authorities in Wales to adopt Lucy’s Law.

Lucy’s Law aims to ban third-party puppy and kitten sales, ensuring stronger protections for animals.

However, the problem in West Wales appears to be not only with unlicensed breeders but also with the activities of licensed ones.

Jonathan Edwards MP, who wrote to the Labour Welsh Government to address the poor animal welfare issues raised on the programme, developed that point.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards said: “My constituents are very concerned that this remains an ongoing issue in Wales. It is my understanding that these terrible events took place on licensed premises. It appears that licences have been issued to people who do not have the welfare of these dogs at heart.

I have written to the Welsh Government to press them for immediate, decisive action to stop these farms from operating in such a terrible manner. An investigation is also required for these unscrupulous activities. It seems clear to me that the current regulations under this government are inadequate.”

<strong>AM QUESTIONS ‘FAILING’ SYSTEM</strong>

Mid and West Regional Labour AM Joyce Watson raised the harrowing programme in First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd.

Ms Watson commended the BBC for showing ‘cruelty beyond belief in council-registered puppy farms’.

The AM continued: “It showed hundreds of dogs living in filthy, dark, damp and cold conditions. These premises are inspected annually by inspectors and vets, people who are supposed to prioritise the welfare of the animals.

A number of premises have been inspected and found wanting, with breaches concerning poor animal welfare logged by inspectors and vets.

This wasn’t a one-off, they had consistently failed to meet recommendations and had been issued with warnings. Despite this, no action was taken against the breeders and licences were reissued year on year.

In some instances, not even basic needs were being met, such as in one site near Llandysul that featured in the programme.”

In that case, a dog was given to undercover workers from a rescue charity. After a vet inspected the animal, a dead puppy was found undelivered and emergency surgery needed to save the animal’s life.

Joyce Watson continued: “The legislation that is in place to protect these dogs is failing. The sheer volume of upheld complaints suggests that something is radically wrong in this process. Minister, I’d like to know what immediate action the Welsh Government are taking, in light of this report, to protect the welfare of both the puppies and the adult dogs at the puppy farms featured in this programme. And it’s clear to me, from the response that I’ve had swiftly overnight, that these authorities are overwhelmed.”

Responding on the Welsh Government’s behalf, Trefynydd Rebecca Evans told AMs she and other AMs shared Joyce Watson’s horror at the programme’s content.

Ms Evans said: The Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs [Lesley Griffiths AM] has written — or intends to very shortly — to veterinary bodies, and also to local authorities about this specific issue. She’s meeting with the chief veterinary officer tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 2). But I also know that the Minister intends to ask the animal welfare framework group to revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions at breeding establishments.”

<strong>TIME IS THE KILLER</strong>

How long that will take is anybody’s guess, in the meantime animals are still suffering in both licensed and unlicensed puppy farms in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere.

An illustration of the current regulatory regime’s shortcomings is shown by the case of Sylvia Griffiths, the owner of Glenview Kennels in Llandyfaelog, who continued to breed and sell puppies despite being refused a licence by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Griffiths held a breeding licence for Glenview since 1998, originally granted for up to 23 adult dogs.

However, when she applied to renew her licence in July 2016, animal health officers visited and found 74 adult dogs on the premises in overcrowded conditions with no free access to exercise areas.

Despite being given time to address conditions and warned that a failure to bring about necessary improvements to animal welfare, when council officers returned to her premises in December 2016 they found that conditions had not improved sufficiently to permit Griffiths to continue holding a licence.

Notwithstanding the officers’ findings, Griffiths continued to defy the law and breed dogs for sale.

It took a complaint from a concerned customer in May 2017, however, for the Council to take further action.

It was over a year later, on July 20, 2018, that Griffiths was ordered to pay £13,500 in fines and costs for continuing to breed and sell puppies illegally.

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Safe zones in Ceredigion town centres

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Plans are being put into place to create safe zones for pedestrians in Ceredigion town centres.
Most of the county’s towns have a historic street layout with narrow footways and traffic running through them so as businesses re-open and visitors return to these areas there is insufficient space for people to keep a safe distance from one another.

Our towns will look different to how they did a few months ago but changes will mean businesses can re-open safely whilst also ensuring residents’ and visitors’ health and safety can be maintained.

The plans being developed by council officers include closing off roads to traffic during the day to create more space for shoppers to walk safely, particularly as large numbers of tourists and students return to the county. It’s also aimed at helping businesses too by creating more outdoor space for retailers and the hospitality sector to trade. It is important that the Council acts quickly to put arrangements in place as quickly as possible and these initial arrangements will be continually reviewed.

To do this, spaces for traders will be re-defined, some roads will be closed to traffic, pavements will be de-cluttered by removing street furniture (and other items), visitors will be asked to park away from the town centres for free and signage will be introduced to help visitors maintain safe distances.

These changes will protect the community and people’s health whilst ensuring businesses can still trade.

Further information on the safe zones will follow.

Keep Ceredigion safe.

Information related to the Coronavirus can be found on the Council’s website, www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus

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Wales’ hospitality sector will prepare to re-open outdoors from 13 July

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The Minister signalled the first phase of a planned reopening for bars, restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces following a rapid review of the sector. 

A final decision about outdoor re-opening will be made at the next review of the coronavirus regulations on 9 July and will depend on whether rates of coronavirus are continuing to fall.

Future decisions about indoor re-opening will be made later and will depend on the success of the first phase of outdoor opening.

The Minister will today also confirm the timetable for re-opening outdoor visitor attractions and the partial opening of the tourism industry in Wales for the remainder of the summer season.

If the requirement to stay local is lifted in Wales on 6 July, outdoor visitor attractions will be able to reopen from Monday.

And, subject to the forthcoming review of coronavirus regulations on 9 July, the tourism sector is preparing to re-open self-contained accommodation.

The Minister will today confirm the date that owners of self-contained accommodation can accept bookings is being brought forward to 11 July from 13 July, to help with the pattern of Saturday-to-Saturday bookings.

Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said:

“Tourism is a vital part of the Welsh economy at a national, regional and local level. I’d like to thank all our industry partners for working with us to carefully reopen the visitor economy.

“A successful, safe and phased return will give businesses, communities and visitors confidence to continue with the recovery of the visitor economy.

“We ask everyone who travels to and around Wales to enjoy their time here, but always to respect local communities. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales – but we want everyone to Visit Wales Safely.”

Guidance to help businesses in Wales’ visitor economy has been published this week. Further guidance for cafes, bars and pubs will follow.

Visit Wales has also worked with the other national tourism organisations on a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide reassurance as the sector works towards reopening.

The Good To Go industry standard and supporting mark means businesses can demonstrate they are adhering to the respective government and public health guidance; have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked they have the required processes in place. The scheme is free to join and open to all businesses across the industry.

Folly Farm are ready to welcome back its loyal annual pass holders from 8 July and will open to all on 13 July.

Zoe Wright, head of marketing at Folly Farm, said:

“We’ve been preparing for our re-opening for several weeks and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Folly Farm, safely.

“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the support we’ve received from our visitors and our local community. Lots of local accommodation providers have been sharing our staying safe re-opening guide ahead of their guests returning.

“We’ve got lots of measures in place to keep our visitors, staff, animals and our wider community safe, including the essential pre-booking of visits so we can limit visitor numbers and provide even more space across our 120-acre site. As an animal attraction, we’re naturally geared up to offer and encourage regular handwashing but we’ve added hand-sanitising stations across the park too.

“Our animals provide a fun way to encourage visitors, especially the younger ones, to follow our social distancing signage with paw prints marking out a safe distance in queuing areas and penguin and pig themed arrows for our one way systems.”

Sean Taylor, Founder & President of Zip World is making preparations to open on 6th of July and said: “As one of North Wales’s biggest outdoor tourist attractions, there is a huge responsibility in the way we restart our operations.  We have a strong sense of community and have an important role to play in rebuilding the region’s visitor economy all of which has to be managed responsibly and firmly in line with the current government guidelines.

“We have spent the last few months rethinking the logistics of our operations to keep staff, customers and the community safe.  To begin with, the reopening will be a staggered approach by only opening two of our three sites initially and 6 of our adventures. This means a reduction in capacity and we have also introduced robust hygiene regimes, clear wayfinding & signage, PPE and the use of tech where possible to reduce consumer touch points. There is now a simple 6 steps guide for all customers to follow before and during their visit – this includes signing the waiver online pre visit, contactless payments etc.”

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South West Wales Virtual Open Day 8 July

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Welsh local authorities, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers will be hosting
a series of Virtual Open Days for Year 11 pupils for the first time this month.

An event specifically for pupils from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath
Port Talbot, Llanelli, Swansea and Powys will be held on Wednesday 8 July and will cover a
series of sessions on post-16 options including A Levels at sixth form or college as well as
work-based qualifications.

Jonathan Davies OBE will host the sessions on apprenticeships and traineeships and will be
on hand to field questions about how to apply and get the most from industry-led training
opportunities.

Other sessions will be led by Pembrokeshire College, NPTC Group of Colleges, Coleg Sir
Gar and Coleg Ceredigion as well as Careers Wales and local authorities.

The spread of COVID-19 has not only meant a break in students’ learning, but also the
cancellation of many planned events like open days which were scheduled to take place
throughout the summer.

Open days are vital ways of helping Year 11 pupils to understand all their options for
continuing their education and deciding on the right path for them. It’s also the way pupils
make connections with new people and different environments to support them in making
their decision.

With no indication yet of when face-to-face events might be able to go ahead again, over
220 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are partnering with
the Welsh Government to hold virtual sessions for all Year 11 pupils in Wales to make sure
nobody misses out.

Organised by Welsh Government and hosted by Working Wales, the Virtual Open Days will
enable young people across Wales to discover the options for furthering their education in
their area, including what school and college courses are available, as well as training
opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships, and access to careers advice from
Careers Wales.

Live sessions will be held for each region across Wales from 7 – 10 July, with lots of
additional content available throughout the second week of July and beyond. There will also
be the opportunity to put questions to local careers advisors and learning providers who
know about the provision in your area.

Virtual Open Days will be hosted online, but those without internet access at home will have
the option to phone and speak directly with schools, colleges and work-based learning
providers.

Welsh Government will be providing information about the full range of Virtual Open Days,
as well as links to partner websites and content, on Working Wales where there will also be
advice for those students who are unsure of what they want to do next.

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that young
people are equipped with the skills, information and training they need to find fulfilling work.
“If you’re a young person, you may be unsure of what you want to do after school, or
whether you want to continue in education at all. Open days can play a vital role in helping
access the right education or training, providing a vital insight into the different courses and
ways of learning that are available to young people considering their next options.

“Virtual Open Days are a really innovative way to explore options digitally and will help
young people in deciding what to do next. Whether you are shielding at home, returning to
school to say goodbye for the summer, or are not sure what to do next, our national virtual
open days will ensure learners in every region of Wales have the opportunity to engage and
ask questions at this important time.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “Deciding what the next step is with
your education is an important time for young people across Wales and we want to make
sure that they are still able to explore the different options that are available.

“During the four days we will be offering additional support from our expert careers advisers
who will be available via our live web chat. This will enable young people who are not sure
what the next step is to get the advice and guidance they need.”

To find out more about Wales’ Virtual Open Days, call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or
go to www.workingwales.gov.wales/start-your-story.

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