Kennel Club judge 'kept 60 caged dogs in pitiful state'

From The Times
March 16, 2007

Kennel Club judge 'kept 60 caged dogs in pitiful state' by Shirley English .
She is a championship dog breeder whose kennels proudly display winning rosettes and trophies, and as a Scottish Kennel Club judge and vice-president of the Fox Terrier Club, her expert advice is widely respected.

But the reputation of Dianne Heathcote was in tatters yesterday, when it emerged that she had lost her breeder’s licence because of the appalling conditions in which she keeps her own dogs.

An investigation by an animal welfare charity into standards at her puppy farm, Corrie Kennels, near Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, discovered about 60 fox terriers, including former show champions, being held in cramped travel cages, stacked on top of each other.

The dogs were allegedly locked up for more than 14 hours a day, some without water and most with inadequate daily exercise. The smell and noise was “overpowering”, and about a third of the animals had matted fur and sores on their backs, necks and legs, according to Advocates for Animals.

A few dogs had chewed through the mesh of their cages, while some were muzzled to stop them barking. Mrs Heathcote had a plastic tube to hit the cages to quieten the noisy ones.

Advocates for Animals sent in an undercover investigator, wearing hidden cameras and microphones, after a tip-off. His findings, gathered from spending a day working at the puppy farm and being shown what to do by Mrs Heathcote, were passed to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and the local authority, which took action.

As a result, Dumfries and Galloway Council refused to renew Mrs Heathcote’s breeding licence on the advice of SSPCA inspectors, who made their own assessment and issued an Animal Care Notice requiring improvements within 14 days.

SSPCA inspectors are still working with Mrs Heathcote on welfare issues and she is co-operating. Many of the dogs have been moved to new homes, a spokeswoman said, adding that no charges had yet been brought.

Ross Minett, director of Advocates for Animals, said: “The animals were clearly leading a pitiful life, spending most of it alone and cooped up in small cages.”

Mrs Heathcote is registered as a Scottish Kennel Club judge, and in 2005 judged the British National Terrier Club Champion Show. Dog breeders struggled to marry the revelations with the woman they know as a “tireless campaigner” for Fox Terriers. She was seen at Crufts only last weekend proudly showing her dogs.

Mrs Heathcote was not available to speak yesterday. But earlier she told The Daily Record that the undercover investigator had given a “very biased view”.