A dog trader tricked animal lovers into buying sick and dying puppies by pretending they came from a family pet.
Martin O’Donnell would import the Labrador puppies from puppy farms in Ireland and then advertise them online.
He would then dupe pet buyers by pretending the pups were born from a brown lab family pet called Lola and even have children running around the house in north London.
But in fact the puppies were infected with the highly contagious parvovirus and were ridden with parasites.
However RSPCA inspectors were hot on O’Donnell’s tail and during the one-year investigation spoke to five people who had bought puppies for between £550 and £580.
All of the puppies were sick and one sadly died.
When police and inspectors raided the house in Edmonton in February they found Lola tied to a chain in the back garden and in a padlocked plastic shed were three very sick pups.
Today O’Donnell was jailed for two years and eight months after previously pleading guilty to five offences of fraud by false representation, and one offence of failing to meet the needs of dogs at Isleworth Crown Court.
Lead investigator Inspector Kirsty Withnall said: ‘We were aware that there was a serious problem with the sale of poorly puppies in the capital and had been following leads for a number of months.
‘Our investigations led us to puppy buyers who had purchased dogs from the address in Edmonton.
‘We spoke with five people who had all bought Labrador pups from the defendant in November and December 2016 – all of which had fallen ill and one sadly died of parvovirus, a highly contagious virus.
‘They’d paid between £550 and £580 for each dog.
‘These dogs were being imported – we suspect illegally from southern Ireland – and being advertised online as home-bred, socialised and healthy dogs.
‘The reality was far from this. They were weak, poorly and terrified. These people are calculating criminals who put money ahead of the health and welfare of dogs.
‘Unfortunately, it’s becoming more difficult to differentiate between legitimate, responsible breeders and unscrupulous sellers.’
She said Lola and the three pup later named Blossom, Hendrix and Marley were seized.
The pups had foreign microchips and were not related to Lola and all suffered from isospora or coccidia and giarda – both types of parasites. There were also fake vaccination cards.
Inspector Withnall added: ‘Lola was tethered on a chain in the garden. In a padlocked plastic shed nearby were the pups.
‘They were all quiet, withdrawn and, after being check over by a vet, it was clear they were very sick.
‘We found text message conversations on phones at the property between the defendant and prospective buyers making arrangements, as well as instructions on uploading adverts to websites.
‘Prospective buyers were led to believe that the puppy they wished to purchase had been born and raised in a loving family home, the mother dog being a family pet.
‘When visiting, buyers were usually met by a man and there were often children present, giving the impression of the ‘family home’ that the puppies were claimed to have been part of.
‘But vaccination cards were registered to false names and under different addresses, the puppies had overseas microchips and the ‘mum’ wasn’t related to them at all.
‘These are all tactics used by dealers to paint a certain picture and trick the prospective buyer.’
The leading animal welfare charity had been gathering evidence on the capital’s poorly pup sales for more than a year, having experienced a 132% increase in calls received relating to illegal puppy trade in England and Wales.
She added: ‘We would urge anyone looking for a puppy to be incredibly careful, do lots of research and, if they have concerns, to walk away and report it to our cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.’Let's