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Belfast man banned from owning animals after failing to look after puppies

A man who failed to ensure the welfare of six puppies found in a van at a ferry port has been banned from owning animals for 15 years.

A group of puppies sit in a cage in the back of a van.
The puppies were found in the back of McRea's van.

Stephen McRea, 29, from Belfast, was sentenced at Stranraer Sheriff Court on Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to failing to take steps to provide the puppies with food, water or a suitable place to rest while transporting them from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

As well as the ban, he was ordered to carry out 90 hours unpaid work and will be supervised for a year under a community payback order imposed by the court.

The court heard that on 3 December 2020 at Loch Ryan Port, Cairnryan police stopped a grey Ford Transit Connect van being driven by McRea after it had disembarked from the P&O ferry sailing from Larne Port, Northern Ireland.

The officers noticed a strong, pungent smell of animal urine emanating from the driver’s window. When they asked McRea what he was carrying he said that he was transporting a “couple of dogs” to a family member in Glasgow.

They searched the van and found six collie type puppies in a cage in the load space of the vehicle.

There were two blankets which were covered in both urine and faeces and all of the puppies were also covered in both faeces and urine. The floor of the load space was covered in sawdust and had traces of dried faeces. The officers found no food or water within the cage or elsewhere in the vehicle.

The police removed the puppies before handing them over to the Scottish SPCA to be examined by veterinary staff.

The puppies were all found to be under weight or very thin and the entire litter tested positive for the Parvo virus antigen. Three of the puppies subsequently died.

"Stephen McRea’s failure to meeting the most basic needs of these puppies and provide a suitable environment for them is wholly unacceptable."

Karon Rollo, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS

Speaking after the sentencing, Karon Rollo, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS said: “I welcome the conviction and sentence in this case.

“Stephen McRea’s failure to meeting the most basic needs of these puppies and provide a suitable environment for them while they were his responsibility is wholly unacceptable.

“We are committed to tackling this type of offending and will continue to work with the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland to ensure that those who commit such crimes face prosecutorial action.”