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Father and son banned from keeping animals after puppy farming offences

A father and son have been sentenced for animal welfare offences, illegal puppy farming and a consumer protection offence involving multiple identities to sell puppies on Gumtree.

At Elgin Sheriff Court on 7 July 2022 Samuel Ronald Hessin and his son Samuel Arthur Hessin were both were given a Community Payback Order requiring them to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and supervision for 18 months.

They were also banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

Samuel Ronald Hessin had previously pled guilty to running an unlicensed pet shop which put up for sale more than 100 dogs. He also failed to provide a suitable environment for the dogs and puppies.

Samuel Arthur Hessin pled guilty to an offence involving misleading commercial practices and causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide adequate care and treatment and obtain veterinary advice.

The court heard that on 3 September 2019 witnesses went to the Hessin farmhouse at Balnamoon, Grange to view a puppy which was advertised on Gumtree. The puppy was described as “filthy and smelt filthy”. Due to their concerns for the puppy and conditions at the property they left and telephoned the Scottish SPCA.

A search warrant was applied for by of Police Scotland and it was granted under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA and officers from Moray Trading Standards and Police Scotland went to the Hessin’s property to execute the warrant on the morning of 19 September 2019.

Dogs and puppies of various breed types were found within the house, outbuildings and roaming free across the property. It was clear from the initial search that the property was being used as an unlicensed breeding operation.

The conditions were unhygienic with no provision to prevent the spread of disease or infection. Many of the dogs and puppies were suffering from diseases, including skin conditions and eye infections. A number of them were visibly coughing and the puppies were passing bloody, faecal matter. The floors where the dogs and puppies were housed in the outbuildings had wet shavings or straw on the ground and were covered in faeces. The stench of ammonia was strong within some areas and there was no proper ventilation.

Many of the adult dogs were kept in small crates, filled with faecal matter and straw, with little room to move.

The Scottish SPCA removed 60 dogs to ensure their welfare and prevent future suffering or disease.

Moray Trading Standards seized phones and paperwork during the search which showed that between 3 December 2018 and 19 September 2019 Samuel Arthur Hessin had placed multiple adverts on Gumtree and Freeads under various email addresses and contact names.

He used 18 different names and mobile numbers, 11 email addresses and three separate locations to misled buyers into thinking they were buying family pets from a family home when they were actually buying puppies, many imported from Northern Ireland, from a puppy farm.

Samuel Arthur Hessin was also responsible for failings in relation the unnecessary suffering of 56 dogs including 12 puppies by failing to provide adequate care and treatment and obtain veterinary advice.

Three puppies named Tiree, Calla and Danna were suffering from chronic skin conditions. Danna also suffered from an eye condition which required surgery. Another dog, Scarba, was suffering from fractured teeth, an infected neck laceration and an ear mite infestation.

At Moray Council Offices on 9 October 2019, they relinquished ownership of all but four of the dogs and puppies to the SSPCA.

Speaking following the sentencing, Andy Shanks, Procurator Fiscal for Grampian, Highland and Islands, said:

“This was a case of widespread and indiscriminate neglect where dogs and puppies were caused suffering and pain by Samuel Ronald Hessin and Samuel Arthur Hessin.

“I would like to thank the Scottish SPCA, Moray Trading Standards and Police Scotland for their part in investigating and gathering evidence of these offences.

“We expect the highest standards of commercial dog breeders and are committed to working with enforcing authorities to ensure that those who do not meet these standards are held to account.”