As a second former worker at an alleged Perthshire puppy farm comes forward, a new video from The Courier unveils behind the scenes at the Glenalmond property.
More than 60 dogs and cats, including pregnant animals and litters of puppies, were seized from the rural property in a joint operation between the Scottish SPCA, Police Scotland, and Perth and Kinross Council in October 2020.
With the public outraged at the conditions the animals were forced to live in for at least 18 months, The Courier shines a spotlight on the case.
Due to the ongoing investigation, the decision has been taken not to reveal its exact location or the name of the main suspect. At the time of publication no arrests or charges had been made.
‘Just Cruel’: Former workers speak out
Two former workers at the alleged puppy farm have laid bare the disgusting conditions dozens of animals were subjected to – with one claiming there were 125 dogs and cats on the property at one stage.
Tiegan Walker, a dog walker from Perth with qualifications in animal care, and a second person who wished to remain anonymous both spent less than a day working at the property before leaving in disgust.
They responded to adverts posted on Gumtree for an “in house dog and cat carer and cleaner” offering £1,000 a month to live on the site.
The advert stated the owners bred German Shepherds.
The anonymous source claimed they spent less than half a day at the alleged puppy farm before fleeing in horror and alerting the authorities.
They said: “(I) was shown into a dirty house and asked to clean out a room with approximately eight German Shepherd puppies in it.
“It was covered in faeces and urine, and the puppies were wet and cold and (had) no food or water – until I took them some.
“No adult dogs were with them. There were three rooms like this then an outdoor kennels.
‘Some puppies were missing eyes and limbs’
“These kennels were again dirty with no beds, food, water or any heating, there were two dogs to each kennel and were numbered rather than named.
“There were also a large number of dogs in a field that appeared older. These all weren’t German Shepherds.
“Some of the puppies did not seem in great health, some were missing eyes and limbs.”
Tiegan told The Courier she was reduced to tears after witnessing blind kittens walking in circles, overbred females and dogs crammed in cupboards.
“I wasn’t allowed out the back because the dogs were too aggressive. From what I could see there was around 10, but there must have been more because they were so noisy,” Tiegan said.
“Inside they must have had three litters of puppies plus their mums and then they had litters of kittens – about 20 of them.
“They were Bengal cats and they were kept in horrific conditions.”
The animal lover said the younger kittens were inside but the older cats were forced outside into kennels despite horrible weather conditions.
‘It was all so horrific…I cried’
Tiegan added: “There were Akita puppies and I don’t even know where the mum was.
“They told me the Akita had killed her own puppies so they had taken them away and given them to the German Shepherd.
“It was all just horrific. They had the big German Shepherd, it was such a lovely dog, in a cupboard with the puppies.
“There was nowhere for her to move and there was no water for her.
“She was such a happy dog and for them to (do) that was just cruel.”
Tiegan said she also witnessed puppies living in the bathroom of the house and believes dogs were being allowed to mix-breed purely to create more puppies.
She said: “It’s just disgusting. I just don’t know how someone can do that.
“He (the owner) told me that before I arrived there had been a litter of puppies who had all died from a disease.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. It’s so sad.”
Scottish SPCA and council bosses under fire after 18 months of complaints
The animal welfare charity and Perth and Kinross Council have both come in for criticism from locals who have been reporting the property to authorities for as long as 18 months.
The Courier has seen letters sent by the chief executives of both organisations, Karen Reid (Perth and Kinross Council) and Kirsteen Campbell (Scottish SPCA) where they admit that officers had visited the alleged puppy farm in June 2019.
The documents state both council officers and Scottish SPCA officers were happy with the way the dogs were being kept but notes some animals were currently housed in “temporary shelters”.
Ms Reid claimed in her letter, dated October 8 2019, that “there is no evidence to suggest that a dog breeding licence is currently required”.
However in the same letter the chief executive also states: “(The animal welfare officer) considers the levels of noise from the establishment as typical from a dog breeding environment.”
It confirms the local authority had received two complaints from different people regarding the property and an investigation was being carried out.
It says neglect allegations were “unsubstantiated” – but that officers would continue to visit the property over complaints alleging “animal cruelty, neglect and activities associated with puppy farming”.
Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell states in her letter, dated September 23 2019, that officers had viewed “several dogs” during a June 2019 visit which were being kept in “an adequate temporary shelter” while a permanent shelter was being built.
During a follow-up visit in July, officers were “comfortable improvements had been made and were reassured the owner was keen to continue to make these”.
Ms Campbell wrote: “We can only act on the evidence we see and gather whilst investigating at the time.
“On every occasion we’ve visited, the owner has been fully cooperative and all advice regarding welfare and living conditions has been followed.”
The animal welfare charity refused to say if owners were given advanced warning of visits by animal welfare officers.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “As this is an ongoing investigation we cannot provide comment at this time.”
‘A complete whitewash’ say locals
Numerous locals have hit out at the authorities’ responses and questioned why the raid took so long to take place. They also claimed one neighbour moved home due to the lack of action.
One resident who lives in the local area is demanding answers, claiming both organisations refused to deal properly with concerns.
He said: “The whole thing has been going on for 18 months and we have been trying to get answers for 18 months.
“It’s a complete whitewash. The whole thing was brushed under the carpet.
“Why did all these dogs and puppies have to suffer for 18 months because of inaction by the SSPCA and animal welfare? Why? It is appalling.”
Another told The Courier: “I have never been so disgusted with the lack of acknowledgement and intervention from the very authorities which are there to help animals and law abiding citizens live in a safe, clean and peaceful environment.”
‘Animals kept in polytunnels at some point’, claims local
The individual claims the Scottish SPCA and council were alerted at least 16 months ago when dogs were being kept in “cages, boxes, boots of cars, vans and in chains”.
Another person from the area said: “At that time they were being kept in polytunnels, in cages, in intense heat.
“All the dogs were kept out the back but if someone came to look at a dog they would take them to the front.
“They had far too many dogs. If anyone went near the place they would all just set off.
“This has been going on for 18 months. I was one of the first people to contact the SSPCA and at that time there were about 30 dogs.”
Perth and Kinross Council defended the length of time taken to investigate, while the Scottish SPCA insisted it would not comment on an ongoing case.
A council spokesman said: “Perth and Kinross Council takes animal cruelty or neglect extremely seriously and we thoroughly investigate all allegations regarding the mistreatment of animals we receive.
“Our animal welfare officers were involved in a joint investigation with the SSPCA and Police Scotland into allegations of commercial breeding in rural Perthshire that resulted in last month’s raid.”
Puppy farming on the rise
Lockdown saw a rise in illegal puppy sales across Scotland, and the Scottish SPCA believes the trade is worth £13 million in the country.
The charity has warned potential buyers that puppies are treated “like commodities” and bred in huge numbers with no regard to their welfare.
The conditions they are born in leads to serious medical and behavioural issues and, in many instances, death at just a few weeks old.
The Scottish SPCA launched 78 investigations into puppy farming in October alone and fear demand for puppies over the festive period will lead to a rise in the number of cases.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “Our concern is that Christmas will further fuel demand and result in more sick puppies coming into our care because of bad breeding.
“This puts immense pressure on our resources and teams and we need your help to provide these poor puppies with the best possible care.”
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon helped launched a campaign, #LookBeyondCute, highlighting the issue.
The SNP MSP said: “During the current Covid-19 pandemic, regrettably we have seen an increase in illegal puppy sales and trading.
“We need to ensure that everyone understands the consequences of purchasing an illegally bred puppy and follow the important steps to buy their dog safely and responsibly.
“Puppy farms breed misery and public demand is fuelling the trade, which is being facilitated through online adverts and sellers.
“Now more than ever, we are urging people to do their research properly and to look for the signs that they are being tricked into buying an illegally bred puppy.”
Research will stop puppy farms ‘cashing in’
Katie McCandless-Thomas, the founder of animal group Missing Pets, Perth and Kinross, pleaded with people to do their research before purchasing any animals, saying that puppy farms were “cashing in”.
She added: “People need to see where they could be buying their dog or cat from.
“Prices just now are spiralling for pups. They are the highest they have ever been and puppy farms are cashing in on it.
“If you are looking at buying a dog or cat then please do your research.
“Do not pay a deposit for an animal you have not met and when visiting the puppy or kitten ask to see mum.
“If you are told mum isn’t at the property when visiting for whatever reason then that should be a cause for concern too.
“Alarm bells should start to ring if they say they will deliver the pup to you or meet somewhere like a car park.
“Excuses can be made as to why they don’t have puppies’ paperwork or vet records, and (they) will say they will forward them on.
“In some cases recently paperwork has even been forged.”
Scottish SPCA appeal
Following the raid on the Glenalmond property the Scottish SPCA is urgently seeking donations to provide care and rehabilitation services following their ordeal.
The animals seized have been taken into the charity’s care.
The investigation into the alleged puppy farm continues. A Scottish SPCA spokeswoman said: “A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal in relation to our investigation.”