News item

Prison for Norfolk dog breeder who made thousands selling "pedigree" puppies with false Kennel Club registrations

Picture of a puppy

 A Norfolk dog breeder has been sentenced to six months imprisonment today (Friday 1 August) for fraudulent trading, after an investigation by Norfolk County Council's Trading Standards team proved she cheated scores of consumers out of thousands of pounds by selling hundreds of puppies with Kennel Club pedigree certificates secured with false information.

The court also made an antisocial behaviour order on conviction against Mrs Walsh. She is thereby prohibited from advertising, selling, exchanging or offering to sell or exchange any dog or puppy whether by herself or through any other person or company. Should she breach the order she would commit a further offence and be liable to up to 5 years' imprisonment and a fine. 

During the five year trading standards investigation more than 60 pet owners provided information and 50 stepped forward to be witnesses for the prosecution of Lisa Walsh, 48, whose court-registered address was in Barnham Broom. 

All of them had bought puppies from Walsh at addresses in Tasburgh, Hockering and Barnham Broom in South Norfolk.

The probe revealed that at the heart of the fraud, Ms Walsh was submitting false information to the Kennel Club about the parents of puppies and securing official registration certificates so she could sell them as pedigrees for hundreds of pounds each. 

Trading Standards officers found evidence of the extent to which Walsh falsified this information including:

  •  DNA tests which showed conclusively that some of these puppies had no genetic links whatsoever to the dogs that were registered as the parents. 
  •  Evidence that she registered puppies claiming she was the breeder, despite having bought them from other breeders with no pedigree documents. 
  • Evidence that she registered some puppies as being the litters of a dog she had already sold and whose new owner had subsequently gone on to have it neutered so that it couldn’t even have had puppies.

The investigation also showed that Walsh altered names and dates on vet certificates and allocated them to different dogs. This gave owners false peace of mind that their puppies were protected from illnesses and left no proof the animals had even seen a vet.

Principal Trading Standards officer at Norfolk County Council, Gary Young, who led the investigation said: "Lots of people want to own a pedigree or a particular breed of dog and know they have to pay a premium. Walsh was charging between £300 and £500 for each of her puppies.

"Our witnesses said they only paid this because the puppies came with official certificates from the Kennel Club. They had no reason to doubt they were not pedigrees.

"But we found Lisa Walsh was systematically manipulating the Kennel Club registration system by providing the organisation with false information to secure the documents.

"Walsh registered over 600 dogs with the Kennel Club during this period. There is no certainty that any of them are correctly registered - or that any of them are pedigrees. So while we found receipts for over £170,000-worth of sales, Walsh could in fact have made almost twice that amount from her business practices."

Norfolk County Council's Trading Standards Manager, Shaun Norris, welcomed the sentence, adding: "Lisa Walsh was deceiving people on numerous levels. Today's sentence is a good outcome and reflects the seriousness of the fraud that she was perpetrating. 

"This case has shown that it can be very difficult to be sure that you are buying a pedigree dog.

"Walsh was licenced as a breeder and her customers bought dogs with Kennel Club registration documents, believing them to be pedigrees.

"Our advice to people who want a pedigree, or a certain breed of dog, is to make contact with recognised breed clubs and societies who should be able to provide good information about reputable breeders of the type of dog you are looking for. 

"Some owners told us that they bought a puppy to remove it from the conditions it was living in. In hindsight they now say they should have walked away, but their hearts ruled their heads. 

"Our advice is to spend time in the seller's home with the litter and make sure you see the puppy interacting with the mother. 

"If you have any concerns whatsoever about the conditions of their environment, contact the RSPCA immediately, otherwise you are encouraging people like Lisa Walsh to continue to exploit dogs and prospective owners.

Norfolk County Councillor Paul Smyth, Chairman of the Communities Committee which is responsible for public protection including trading standards in Norfolk said: "Our officers brought this case to expose a fraudulent business which took advantage of people's desire to buy a pure-bred puppy. 

"While we have worked to establish the true pedigree of the dogs sold by Ms Walsh, our wider aim has been to protect the interests of the many genuine dog breeders in Norfolk who do not falsify information or deceive their customers in order to make a profit. 

"By pursuing this case, trading standards have also acted decisively to uphold the integrity and reputation of the Kennel Club which is a nationally recognised institution."

For political comment

Cllr Paul Smyth (UKIP) Chairman of the Communities Committee, on 07733 431358

Cllr Margaret Wilkinson (Labour) Vice Chair of the Communities Committee, on 01553 766531

Cllr Harry Humphrey (Conservative) on 01945 430539 or 07866 590632

Cllr Dan Roper (Liberal Democrat) on 07920 441970

Cllr Adrian Dearnley (Green) on 01603 812212

Cllr Richard Bird (Independent) on 01485 532565

DATE: 1 August 2014