Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sale of 'sick animals' continues

Dog bought by undercover buyer
The puppy bought by the undercover buyer

An Essex puppy trader is still selling sick and dying animals despite a court order banning her from doing so, a BBC Inside Out investigation has revealed.

The landmark case was brought by Essex Trading Standards in 2004.

It bound Loretta Bastin and those acting for her not to sell puppies of an unsatisfactory quality.

However, puppies from her premises continue to be found to suffer from a range of problems including the lethal and highly infectious parvo virus.

The business, which trades as Dobe Farm, in Runwell near Wickford, and online as Hot Dog Kennels, still holds a full pet shop licence.

Problems at Dobe Farm were first exposed by BBC East in 1995.

It found puppies were being sold with false pedigree certificates and with vaccination certificates that vets said were worthless.

Trading Standards took Ms Bastin to court five years ago using the Sale of Goods Act, which had never been used in a case of this kind before, in an attempt to stop her trading in sick animals.

Heart defect

However, complaints about Dobe Farm have not stopped.

Emma Berham, from Chingford in east London, bought a puppy from Loretta Bastin in 2007, but said the animal fell ill almost immediately.

Loretta Bastin
Loretta Bastin was taken to court by Trading Standards in 2004

She said: "We took her to the vet straight away as an emergency. He said she had a serious heart defect.

"Buying Jess was like buying a car with no engine and she should never have been sold in that condition."

Vanessa McNeice also bought a puppy from Dobe Farm in September 2008.

She took her dog to the vets and found it had ear mites, worms and the deadly parvo virus.

Ms McNeice said: "Then they said he had septicaemia and all his organs were shutting down and they gave him blood transfusions, plasma and, the poor little mite, he just didn't stand a chance."

Undercover buyer

Both women were refunded the cost of the puppies by Ms Bastin, but were left with hefty vets bills and the upset of losing their pets.

In December 2008, posing as buyers, undercover researchers returned to Dobe Farm and bought a Pug/Cavalier King Charles cross puppy.

The animal was examined by a vet from dog welfare charity The Dogs Trust and found to be suffering from ear mites and a misshapen jaw that was likely to cause feeding difficulties.

"You do tend to get undershot jaws in Pugs and Cavaliers but this is really quite excessive," said Dogs Trust vet Chris Laurence.

The vet said the puppy was not fit for sale
The vet said the puppy was not fit to be sold

"Her teeth will rot much more quickly because they don't meet properly so she will have difficulty chewing."

He also judged the puppy to be so emotionally disturbed that it would never recover.

He said it was unsuitable to be homed with children and should not have been put up for sale.

Ms Bastin, who is also known as Loretta Toye, would not say where she sourced the puppies she sells.

Puppy farms

Experts say dogs sold by Dobe farm show the classic symptoms of animals raised in so-called puppy farms where they are often kept in crowded conditions, have little or no human contact, and often suffer from physical and mental health problems.

A number of Dobe farm customers told Inside Out they contacted Trading Standards with their complaints but said they were dissatisfied with the response they received.

Essex Trading Standards would not comment on why no action appeared to have been taken.

Chelmsford Borough Council, which issues the pet shop licence, also refused to be interviewed but told the BBC: "We have made inspections… and are currently investigating a potential breach of the licence.

"The council is now working closely with Trading Standards and the RSPCA which could result in legal action being taken against Ms Bastin."

Ms Bastin refused to be interviewed on camera.

The BBC Inside Out programme screens on BBC1 in the East at 1930 BST on Wednesday, 14 January.

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