A couple who imported over 4000 dogs from overseas over a 15-month period have been given suspended prison sentences.
Police and RSPCA officers removed 160 animals, including 144 dogs and 16 cats, from the 4Paws rescue centre in Lincolnshire in February of this year.
Jodie Fairbrother and Paul Fairbrother appeared for sentencing at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on Thursday for a string of offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
When officers raided the property they found many of the animals kept in cramped kennels and cages - without access to food or water.
The body of one deceased dog was found in the onsite clinic.
Jodie Fairbrother was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and banned from keeping or trading in animals for five years.
Paul Fairbrother was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and was also banned from keeping or trading in animals for five years.
Both were ordered to pay £500 costs each and a £115 victim surcharge each and are disqualified from keeping animals.
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RSPCA SOU Chief Inspector Ian Briggs said: “The kennel blocks were seriously overcrowded. Runs which, at an RSPCA site, would be home to one dog had been split into two with two or three dogs in one half, inside, and another two or three dogs in the other half, outside.
“One dog - a large Romanian shepherd called Bear - was in such a small kennel that he could barely lie down. He was extremely distressed and we had to sedate him to remove him from the site.
We understand that he’d been there, in those conditions, for three years - and had only been out of his kennel three times.
“He’s now in RSPCA care and is coming on leaps and bounds. Thanks to the tireless work of staff and behaviour experts, his confidence is building and he’s beginning to trust people again.
“Other dogs were found living in crates which were too small, stacked on top of each other and lying in their own filth.
“One dog, who couldn’t even stand up in his crate as it was so small, was so thirsty that when our officers gave him water he drank continuously for several minutes.”