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.
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.
Ambulance delays as heart attack victims left waiting one hour 57 minutes
FREEDOM of Information requests reveal the worst ambulance delays out of 22 local authorities in Wales.
Postcode lottery revealed with patients in some areas waiting over double the amount of time for life-threatening calls
The average wait time for amber calls, which includes heart attack and stroke victims was 1 hour 57 minutes. In Swansea, it was 2 hours 33 minutes.
Shocking figures have unveiled the local areas in Wales with the longest ambulance delays, revealing a stark “postcode lottery” for response times to life-threatening calls.
Figures were provided by local authority giving a more local breakdown of the usual Health Board data.
Potential heart attack and stroke victims in the worst-hit areas are now waiting an average of one hour and 57 minutes for paramedics to arrive.
The figures, uncovered by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests, reveal how patients whose lives are in immediate danger are waiting twice as long in some rural areas than urban ones. In Anglesey, patients waited an average of 12 minutes and 22 seconds for category 1 calls compared to 6 minutes 31 seconds in Newport.
However, the figures for amber calls painted a much starker picture with an average arrival time of 1 hour 57 minutes in Wales, with the worst in Swansea, where the average wait was 2 hours 33 minutes.
Overall, 13 out of the 22 local authorities in Wales had an average wait of over 2 hours for amber calls.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for action on the social care crisis in order to free up hospital beds and stop ambulances waiting outside hospitals.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:
“These figures are heart-breaking, but not necessarily shocking to anyone who has had to call on an ambulance in recent months.
“Far too many people are being left to wait too long in an emergency across every region of Wales. The length of amber calls, which includes stroke and heart attack victims in particularly concerning.
“None of this is the fault of our hardworking ambulance staff who are doing their utmost in extremely difficult conditions.
“We must see an end to the postcode lottery in emergency care, it shouldn’t matter where you live, you should be able to get timely medical attention when you need it most.
“Every day we hear more and more devastating stories of pensioners left stranded for hours, or families watching a loved one die before a paramedic could reach them.
“This cannot continue, the Welsh Labour Government must bring forward extra support to get ambulance services through winter as well as a long-term strategy to ensure people can get emergency care when they need it. That means addressing workforce shortages, fixing the social care crisis and ending the shortage of hospital beds, all of which are leaving patients in ambulances stuck outside A&E for hours.”
Ceredigion MS’ back striking Uni staff
LOCAL Plaid Cymru politicians stood in solidarity with striking university staff at the Senedd this week, as over 70,000 staff from over 150 universities across the UK undertook three days of striking action over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions.
The strike, organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU), was the biggest in the history of higher education, and saw protestors gather en masse in London and Cardiff, as well as picket lines on university campuses, including in Aberystwyth and Lampeter.
The strikes come after UCU members overwhelmingly voted ‘yes’ to industrial action in September in two historic national ballots over attacks on pay and working conditions as well as pension cuts.
In September, Aberystwyth University, along with other employers, offered a standard three per cent pay increase. UCU’s demands, however, include a pay uplift of 12 per cent or Retail Price Index (RPI) plus two per cent, an agreed framework to eliminate insecure work practices such as zero hours contracts, and action to address dangerously high workloads.
The protest at the Senedd on Wednesday 30th November brought together a range of university staff, students and supporters, as well as many politicians.
Elin Jones, Member of the Senedd for Ceredigion said:
“I welcomed the opportunity to stand in solidarity with striking university staff. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, it’s clear that the current pay offer to university staff does not go far enough, and many will struggle financially over coming months.
Whilst staff in Aberystwyth and Lampeter are working hard to deliver an exceptional experience for their students, more and more are struggling as a result of falling pay, pension uncertainty and insecure work.”
Cefin Campbell, Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales concluded:
“Universities’ roles as vital employers across Mid & West Wales cannot be understated. No-one – including the university staff – wants industrial action, however the fact that the strike took place indicates the strength of feeling and frustration within the sector. At this time of growing financial hardship, I stand with the UCU staff and hope their demands will be met by universities.”
Children’s Commissioner for Wales helps deliver powerful messages from children
ENCOURAGING safeguarding professionals and practitioners to engage with and listen to children and young people was at the heart of an event hosted by the Mid and West Wales Regional Safeguarding Board for children, as part of its National Safeguarding Week activities and program for 2022.
The event which took place on 18 November 18 at Parc-y–Scarlets stadium in Llanelli, was attended by professionals who play a key role in safeguarding children, including police officers, nurses, social care staff and education professionals, and by children and young people from across the region, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
A safeguarding training resource and animation developed and created by the Regional Safeguarding Board’s Junior Group CADW, was officially launched as part of the event, by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes.
The training resource designed to be used in all mandatory multi-agency safeguarding training across the region, gives powerful messages to professionals about what is important to children and young people when practitioners and professionals may need to intervene in their lives to support or protect them.
Jan Coles, Head of Children’s Services at Carmarthenshire Council, which led and facilitated the event of behalf of the Mid and West Wales Safeguarding Board, said: “It is empowering and extremely inspiring for the children and young people from across our region to see so many safeguarding professionals and practitioners to support the fantastic work they have done.
“The messages in the animation are very powerful and we will take this forward as a regional safeguarding board and ensure they are embedded into core safeguarding practice.”
The resource as well as supplementary information and materials can be viewed here: www.cysur.wales/training/animation-training-resource/
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