A MAN who ran an illegal puppy farm near Aberporth has been jailed today for animal cruelty offences.

Steffan Lee Harris, aged 25, admitted keeping various breeds in poor conditions and was jailed for six months.

His partner Barbara Ray Howell, also 25, admitted similar animal cruelty charges. She was jailed for four months, suspended for 18 months, partly because she had a young child to look after.

Judge Peter Heywood also issued a ban preventing the couple from owning or looking after dogs, chickens and pigs for five years

Paul Hobson, prosecuting, told Swansea crown court how the couple advertised as private owners on a website--called ironically, he said - preloved.co.uk.

One buyer, Sasha Monk, paid £225 for a puppy from a caravan they rented at Waun Dwni farm, Tanygroes.

The animal became ill before they got back home to Cardiff and they ended up paying £700 in vet's bills.

Mr Hobson said the puppy had not been microchipped, vaccinated or treated for fleas as they claimed in their advertisement.

A substantial investigation followed, first by Ceredigion County Council and then by the RSPCA.

Inspectors found 82 dogs being kept in poor conditions--49 breeding females, 12 males and 21 puppies ready for sale.

A Lurcher could hardly move, a terrier was tied to a breeze block and a collie had a body fat score of one out of nine and was close to death.

Another dog was kept in a sealed container and it appeared impossible for anyone to get in to feed or water it, said Mr Hobson.

Both Howell and Harris admitted operating a puppy farm without a licence.

Mr Hobson said the dogs were taken away with the intention of finding homes for them.

Inspectors also found pigs squealing through lack of food and water and chickens that appeared not to have been fed or given access to water. One collapsed in front of them.

Harris and Howell, now of Gerwyn, Tenby Road, St Clears, both admitted cruelty offences in relation to the pigs and Harris to the chickens.

Mr Hobson said further investigation showed that Harris had a flock of 110 sheep on nearby land, which he rented. The owner became concerned because he did not seem to be there to look after them and inspectors found sheep carcasses that should have been disposed of properly.

After Harris was made aware of their concerns the sheep disappeared, apart from 19 which he seemed to have simply abandoned.

Mr Hobson said an initial financial investigation seemed to show the couple had banked £150,000 between 2013 and 2018 through the sale of puppies. A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation is underway to determine how much money could be confiscated from them. That matter will be settled at a court hearing on November 15.

After his arrest Harris said he wanted to get the puppy farm up and running before applying for a licence.

Howell said she only looked after the paperwork.

James Hartson, the barrister representing both defendants, said he accepted that anyone seeing the photographs of the dogs could not fail to be mortified.

"They had ambitions for a business but lost control. It is likely the financial consequences will be punitive," he added.

Judge Peter Heywood said animals were defenceless and Harries and Howell had housed them in totally inappropriate surroundings.

"This was a significant commercial enterprise and Harris was the driving force.

"You were in it to make money and had no regard for the welfare of the animals," he added.

He said he would be failing in his public duty if he suspended Harris' sentence but Howell had a young child.

Cllr Gareth Lloyd, Ceredigion council cabinet member responsible for finance and public protection services said: “This is the first time that Ceredigion County Council and the RSPCA have worked together in a joint prosecution which used the expertise of both organisations and made full use of the court powers available to the council.

“This conviction should serve as a warning to those breeding dogs illegally in Ceredigion and the high risks associated with such activity.”

RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said, “This was an illegal puppy farm where dogs and their puppies were kept in disgusting conditions which fell far below the minimum standard required.

“Even the working dogs were neglected, with an emaciated collie, lurcher and terrier all found on the premises. The poultry were dead or dying as we walked around and despite calling a vet to the scene, for many it was too late.

“Sadly, this is a sight we see in south and west Wales time and time again - but there is no excuse. All animals must have their needs met and respected.

“We are very pleased to work with Ceredigion County Council to combat this illegal trade and we advise anyone with animal welfare concerns to call us on 0300 1234999 or with information about unlicensed breeding to call the council.”