A Southfields woman who imported young puppies from her native Lithuania to sell online was prosecuted by Wandsworth Council for breaching animal welfare laws.
Sonata Sakalauskaite had been running an illegal pet shop business from her flat in Lainson Street which was discovered during a joint investigation with the City of London Corporation into the suspected illegal importation and sale of puppies from the Baltic states.
The initial investigation led officers to Miss Sakalauskaite’s property and the seizure of five French Bulldog puppies which were being advertised for sale on the internet.
A second visit a few weeks later revealed two more puppies – this time they were hidden behind a piano in a bid to keep them hidden.
Neighbours also said there had been an almost constant stream of puppies arriving and leaving the property in the preceding months.
Officers established that the puppies had entered the country under false pet passports and were all under the legal age they can enter the UK, which is 15 weeks.
The puppies were all aged between eight and ten weeks old and the officers had concerns for their welfare as they would have been separated from their mothers before they were old enough and this can lead to health and behavioural problems.
There were also serious public health concerns, given that the puppies were born outside the UK where rabies is still an issue.
The false pet passports said the dogs had been vaccinated against rabies, but because they were still so young, they were not old enough for their injections and the effectiveness of the vaccine would have been compromised.
When later interviewed Miss Sakalauskaite admitted selling two French bulldog puppies for around £650 after advertising them on the internet, and also confirmed that they had originally been born in Lithuania.
She also claimed she’d given up the business, but evidence subsequently obtained from checking microchip records revealed she was still selling puppies and had actually sold another one whilst the case was being investigated.
Community safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “There were very real concerns about the welfare of these puppies and how they were being kept and treated at this small flat.
“Our investigation showed that Miss Sakalauskaite was effectively running a commercial pet shop from her property without a licence and this is illegal.
“If these had been puppies born in her flat to another dog she owned that would have been one thing but this appeared to involve large numbers of puppies being imported from overseas simply to be sold on.
“The scale of her business operation showed that the health and well-being of these young dogs was being put at risk, not to mention the wider public health implications of what she was doing.”
When the case was brought before Lavender Hill magistrates court Miss Sakalauskaite was ordered to pay £6,350 in fines and court costs.
Anyone with concerns about the welfare of animals in the borough should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the council’s dog control team on 0208 871 7532 or [email protected]
Picture courtesy of Rachel DJ Curly, with thanks