A couple who ran a lucrative unlicensed dog breeding business described as a “puppy farm” have been ordered to pay £400,000.
Karl and Victoria Shellard ran and owned the PosherBulls dog breeding business from their home in Bonvilston, Vale of Glamorgan, without an appropriate licence which allowed them to breed dogs. They also failed to meet the needs of the breeding bitches in their care after forcing them to undergo multiple pregnancies and deliver more than one litter a year, which is considered an animal welfare offence.
Despite illegally running the business, the couple had made in the region of £372,000 off the back of selling Bulldog puppies.
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Speaking at a sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday, Judge David Wynn Morgan said: “You were running a puppy farm and doing it to make money, and you made a great deal of money indeed. You could have run an extremely profitable business if you were properly registered but you’re going to pay the price for that folly.”
Karl Shellard, 43, and Victoria Shellard, 40, were told on numerous occasions they needed to apply for a licence from Vale of Glamorgan council but ignored the authorities.
But when an investigation into the business was launched, an expert veterinary surgeon concluded if they had applied for a licence they would not be granted one. The Shellards took steps to avoid detection by the local authority by using “co-ownership contracts”, where they paid others to officially own or house the dogs.
The couple were visited by animal welfare officers on January 8, 2018, when they were told they would need to apply for a breeder’s licence, but the full extent of the business’ activities was unknown at that stage.
Despite flouting the rules, prosecutor Tim Evans said the Shellards were openly advertising PosherBulls through a website and social media, in which they claimed to be “experienced breeders” and “leaders in distinguished Bulldogs of all colours”.
A warrant was executed at the couple’s four-bedroom detached home in Bonvilston on December 16, 2019, and at two other properties connected with the business. Found at the Shellard home were 28 dogs and an outbuilding in the garden contained a laboratory with equipment including a multipurpose centrifuge machine, microscopes, equipment for storing and collecting semen, and for taking blood. Officers also found a signed part-completed Breeder Licence Application Form which had never been sent off.
At another property in Bonvilston, officers discovered 24 dogs and a property in North Cornelly was found to house another six dogs.
Mr Evans said that despite knowing they should be licensed, the Shellards continued to breed dogs and even made several alterations to the dog accommodation at their property adding outside purpose-built kennels, a dog run and fitting out the summerhouse to house dogs with litters. He said: “Despite these obvious works to facilitate their dog breeding business they failed to apply for a breeding licence until January 2020. That was two weeks after the execution of a warrant at the premises and almost two years after being told that a licence was necessary.”
During his interview, Karl Shellard said he had not sent off the licence application as they were trying to sell their home, and would have had to change their address on the application. He admitted practising dog breeding for six years despite not having a licence
Victoria Shellard said they would sell puppies for anything between £1,500 and £20,000. They both admitted back to back breeding, where dogs had delivered more than one litter in a 12-month period.
The court heard the couple bred at least 67 litters between 2014 and 2020, with information on known C-sections indicating 43 litters had been delivered between 2018 and 2019.
One dog named Coco had delivered six litters within a four-year period while numerous others were forced to deliver two litters in less than a 12-month period.
Mr Evans said: “This back-to-back breeding would have been a licensing offence had they been licensed breeders. It is something that even legitimate breeders should never do.
“But, irrespective of the absence of a breeder’s licence, it an animal welfare offence as the recovery from a C-section takes many months and the Shellards were artificially inseminating these dogs long before they were healthy enough to undergo a pregnancy and subsequent C-section again. This was a positive decision to breed the animals in that way.”
After the couple officially applied for breeding licence, a vet inspection took place at their home on February 10 last year but a licence wasn’t granted due to poorly-managed health issues, unfit accommodation and lack of space for dogs, a lack of understanding the guidelines and poor isolation facilities for unvaccinated dogs.
A further report concluded the Shellards had run a business which “maximised puppy production without regard to the health and welfare of the dogs”.
Karl and Victoria Shellard later pleaded guilty to breeding dogs without a licence between 2017 and 2020 and nine counts of failing to ensure the needs of a protected animal for which they were responsible. Investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act revealed the couple had made £372,531 illegally but had available assets of £1,041,714.
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In mitigation, Heath Edwards said the business was started by Karl Shellard who became involved with Bulldogs as a hobby and his enthusiasm led him to breeding the animals. He said Victoria Shellard became involved in the financial and administrative side of the business.
The barrister said the business became “nationally and internationally recognised” for the quality of the dogs they bred, which he described as “healthy and of unquestionable pedigree”.
Mr Edwards said the couple, who share three children, would “pay a significant price” for failing to apply for a licence and had been left “in limbo” waiting for court proceedings to conclude.
Sentencing, Judge Wynn Morgan said: “Those with long memories recall the scandals of the puppy farms of west Wales and sickening stories of dogs being bred through breeding bitches in appalling and squalid conditions. The result of those scandals was the legislation put in place to monitor and regulate the breeding of dogs.
“That is why you were obliged to register your business so it could be properly regulated but you chose, despite being told about it, not to do it. The reasons put forward are wholly inadequate because that is the law and anyone who wanted to do what you have done had to abide by that.”
Karl and Victoria Shellard were both fined £19,000, a total of £38,000 and were ordered to pay £372,531. They were also ordered to pay court costs of £43,775, making a total of £453,307. The couple have three months to pay or receive 24 months imprisonment in default.
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