Legal accountability: Licensed dog breeder convicted of fraud

A licensed dog breeder who falsely sold popular dog breeds as "a front for puppy farms" has been sentenced in England.

Lisa Canning advertised dogs including a cockapoo (a cocker spaniel-poodle cross) that had no cocker spaniel in it, Cardiff Crown Court heard. Between 2016 and 2017 she operated as 4 Small Paws and made £50,000 from sales. Canning admitted four charges of fraud and one of unfair commercial practice and was given a suspended sentence.

The court heard that while she was a licensed breeder, she bred far more animals than she was permitted and sold puppies for puppy farms in west Wales, lying about their genetic makeup. Trading from East Aberthaw and then Castle-upon-Alun, she sold dogs as sought-after breeds, falsely claiming they had full vaccination and medical histories.

Canning admitted four charges of fraud and one of unfair commercial practice. Some dogs were bred in breach of her licence, others - such as cockapoos, cocker spaniels, chocolate Labradors, cavapoos, pugs and Scottish terriers - were sourced from unknown locations. Advertising online, she placed 266 adverts for dogs. The court heard one customer who thought they were buying a cockapoo paid £650 for a DNA test and found there was no cocker spaniel in the dog. Another woman who bought what she was told was a Labrador discovered it was was 50% cocker spaniel, 37% Labrador and 12% golden retriever, following a £750 DNA test.

Canning's business was described as "chaotic", prosecutors said it was hard to establish how many puppies she bred, but estimated she made £50,000 from the sale of more than 100 puppies. Following her arrest, a number of her animals were placed with a dog rescue charity. While she claimed she had been through a difficult divorce and was struggling to cope, Judge Thomas Crowther said her business was "a front for puppy farms". He added: "The harm is that you play on people's emotions, children especially." She was given a 30-week sentence, suspended for two years, and told she must complete 200 hours unpaid work and pay costs and compensation totalling £50,000.