One dealer, Thomas Rayment, was jailed in 2021 for running a heroin and crack cocaine gang in the north of England but his Facebook messenger account was used repeatedly to set up a deal with Poling.
His business partner, Ryan Howard, said during secret filming that Rayment was brokering the deal from prison but later denied this when contacted by the BBC.
‘Same business model as selling drugs… but with dogs’
An animal welfare investigator told Panorama: “It’s a massively lucrative trade. The big breeders… the majority of them are criminals, drug dealers, organised crime gangs who are driving up the market. It’s exactly the same business model as selling drugs. But we’re talking about dogs.”
BBC Panorama identified another dog breeding business which was not connected to organised crime but was producing English bulldogs with extreme features, despite the owners having recently been successfully prosecuted for animal welfare offences.
Karl and Victoria Shellard were convicted of animal welfare offences last year having bred dogs with unhealthy features such as huge skin folds inhibiting their breathing. The Shellards were selling their extreme English bulldogs for up to £20,000 each on social media.
The couple were fined £19,000 each but despite their conviction they are still in business, with Karl boasting in undercover footage that he made between £90,000 and £100,000 in one month from carrying out nearly 41 studs.