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Traveller clan are jailed for £300,000 illegal puppy operation when they brought in animals ‘like commodities’ from Eastern Europe and pretended they were much-loved pets when they put them up for sale online


A family of scammers have been jailed after making £300,000 by conning people into believing the puppies they were buying were much-loved pets when in reality the dogs were being bred and traded like ‘commodities’. 

The McDonagh clan operated a wide ranging fraudulent scheme in which falsely advertised the pups on popular Facebook pages and used dozens of fake emails, addresses, names, and staged photos showing the pups ‘at home’ to trick customers.

All the while, the immoral gang were importing pups from across Europe, breeding puppies, and dealing in stolen animals.

The scam was uncovered thanks to a detailed investigation by the RSPCA and the true scale of the illegal puppy operation was uncovered with the McDonaghs pocketing around £300,000.

Sentencing, a judge at Swansea Crown Court said the fraud had been sophisticated and carefully planned involving as it did the transportation of animals likely bred in East European puppy farms. 

A family of scammers have been jailed after making £300,000 by conning people into believing the puppies they were buying were much-loved pets

A family of scammers have been jailed after making £300,000 by conning people into believing the puppies they were buying were much-loved pets

The McDonagh clan operated a wide ranging fraudulent scheme in which falsely advertised the pups on popular Facebook pages

The McDonagh clan operated a wide ranging fraudulent scheme in which falsely advertised the pups on popular Facebook pages

They used dozens of fake emails, addresses, names, and staged photos showing the pups 'at home' to trick customers

They used dozens of fake emails, addresses, names, and staged photos showing the pups ‘at home’ to trick customers

Martin McDonagh and his family from Newport profited from the scheme to the tune of £300,000

Martin McDonagh and his family from Newport profited from the scheme to the tune of £300,000

Patrick McDonagh

John McDonagh

Patrick (left) and John McDonagh were also jailed for their part in the immoral scam

It also involved the breeding of pups in Wales and the keeping of animals in dirty and unsanitary conditions. 

The twisted adverts the McDonagh clan used to sell their dogs under false pretences

The McDonagh’s produced advertisements for their dogs and marketed them on sites including Pets4Homes and Gumtree.

One reads: ‘This stunning little tri-coloured cavalier king Charles spaniel pup is now ready to leave for his new homes. We have one boy available he is very loving affectionate pup that likes to play and have cuddles. He has been raised in our family home with our kids and he is well socialised. Mum is our family pet and can be seen with pup.’

Another details: ‘I’ve come to the very sad sale of my beautiful beagle. He is four months old I have had him since he was eight weeks but I hate to say this but my circumstances have changed and I sadly cannot have him no more I am so upset about this as I really do love him but I can no longer give him the time that he deserves and has forced me into putting him up for sale.’ 

 

 

Hazel Stephens, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said the investigation started thanks to an observant vet who became suspicious that a man had taken three litters of puppies into the surgery using the same phone number but calling himself by different names.

Concerned about what was going on the vet contacted the RSPCA and the animal charity launched an investigation subsequently called Operation Earth.

The detailed investigation would eventually reveal that members of the McDonagh family were involved in the breeding, cross-border transportation, and sale of puppies and dogs on a large and very profitable scale. 

Evidence gathered as part of Operation Earth showed the McDonaghs were advertising pups for sale on four of the main puppy selling sites – FreeAds, Pets4Homes, Preloved, and Gumtree. 

The adverts were worded to make it appear that the dogs were from home-bred litters and were socialised and healthy puppies when in reality the defendants were trading puppies and dogs ‘like commodities with no care for their health or welfare’. 

Veterinary records acquired by the RSPCA ‘demonstrated the ill-health and frequent breeding of a number of dogs’.

Some of the puppies sold by the McDonaghs were found to have microchips from Poland, Hungary, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Ireland and in some cases they had been taken to vets in the UK to make them look like dogs from Britain. 

The prosecutor said analysis of Facebook adverts and messages and of phone records showed the defendants had used 41 different residential addresses, 47 mobile phone numbers, and 39 email addresses during the puppy-selling scam.

It is estimated that between January 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, a total of £532,300 worth of dogs were advertised for sale online and the prosecutor said for the purposes of the case the value of the fraud was put at £300,000.

The immoral gang were importing pups from across Europe, breeding puppies, and dealing in stolen animals

The immoral gang were importing pups from across Europe, breeding puppies, and dealing in stolen animals

The scam was uncovered thanks to a detailed investigation by the RSPCA and the true scale of the illegal puppy operation was uncovered

The scam was uncovered thanks to a detailed investigation by the RSPCA and the true scale of the illegal puppy operation was uncovered

The scam also involved the breeding of pups in Wales and the keeping of animals in dirty and unsanitary conditions

The scam also involved the breeding of pups in Wales and the keeping of animals in dirty and unsanitary conditions

The McDonagh family were involved in the breeding, cross-border transportation, and sale of puppies and dogs on a large and very profitable scale

The McDonagh family were involved in the breeding, cross-border transportation, and sale of puppies and dogs on a large and very profitable scale

Veterinary records acquired by the RSPCA 'demonstrated the ill-health and frequent breeding of a number of dogs'

Veterinary records acquired by the RSPCA ‘demonstrated the ill-health and frequent breeding of a number of dogs’

Some of the puppies sold by the McDonaghs were found to have microchips from Poland, Hungary, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Ireland

Some of the puppies sold by the McDonaghs were found to have microchips from Poland, Hungary, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Ireland

In some cases they had been taken to vets in the UK to make them look like dogs from Britain

In some cases they had been taken to vets in the UK to make them look like dogs from Britain

The court heard 20 victims of the scam had given statements to the RSPCA and between them they had paid the McDonaghs more than £30,000 for what they believed were socialised and healthy pups from a family home. 

A number of those puppies subsequently required vet treatment with a number being diagnosed with pneumonia, some with campylobacter, giardia, and with various other welfare issues while two puppies were diagnosed with parvovirus.

The prosecutor said many of the purchasers had been left with large vets bills.

Ms Stephens said there were two sets of victims in the case – the puppies themselves and also the purchasers who suffered ‘considerable expense and considerable emotional upset through the illness and in some cases death of the puppy’. 

Each of the McDonagh men pleaded guilty to commit fraud by false representation and to failing to meet the needs of puppies in the their care under Animal Welfare Act 2006 and were sentenced to a combined total of 16 years in prison. 

Each of the McDonagh women pleaded guilty to failing to meet the needs of puppies in their care under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and were given suspended custodial sentences. 



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