A Romanian man has been banned from keeping animals for five years for smuggling six young puppies into the country.
Alexandru-Constantin Ghita, 28, of Old Reading, Harrow, was convicted of two counts of landing an animal, one count of trading an unlicensed pet shop and one count of failing to ensure the needs of a protected animal at Hendon Magistrates' Court on August 17.
Metropolitan Police officers were called on June 18 to an address in Waller Drive, Northwood, to reports of a suspected burglary in progress.
They found no evidence of a break-in but did discover six young puppies running loose in a cluttered garage with no natural light or water.
The puppies, four French bulldogs and two pugs, were taken into police possession under the Animal Welfare Act.
A veterinary surgeon determined they had originated from abroad and were under-age to have been lawfully imported.
The case was referred to Animal Health Inspectors from the City of London Corporation who ordered that the puppies be placed into quarantine.
Officers from the Met Police Taskforce in partnership with Animal Health Inspectors from the City Corporation’s Heathrow Animal Reception Centre launched a joint investigation into the unlawful landing of the puppies contrary to the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974 and sections 72(b) and 76(2) of the Animal Health Act 1981.
Ghita was identified as the person responsible for landing the animals and was subsequently interviewed under caution.
He said he was bringing the animals to the UK as gifts for his friends and not as a commercial activity, but evidence obtained by investigators showed that adverts had been placed on-line offering the dogs for sale and that they had been imported from Romania undergoing a 48 hour journey across Europe to reach the UK.
Ghita was charged with two counts of Landing Animals – Contrary to the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974 and sections 72(b) and 76(2) of the Animal Health Act 1981
One count of Trading as an Unlicensed Pet Shop - Contrary to sections 1(1) and (7) and 5(1) of the Pet Animals Act 1951.
One count of Responsible Person Failing to ensure the needs Protected Animal - Contrary to section 9 and 32(2) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Ghita pleaded guilty to all counts at Hendon Magistrates' Court on Thursday, August 17.
The dogs will now be re-homed through the Dogs Trust.
He was sentenced on the same day and banned from keeping any animals for five years and fined £3,335.
Inspector Paddy O’Hara, of the Met’s Status Dog Unit, said: “Ghita kept these animals in poor conditions without any consideration for their needs.
"We are pleased to see that they are now safe and will be re-homed by our colleagues at the Dogs Trust, who have homed them in their kennels at their own expense. We are very grateful.
Thanks to the ban handed down at court, Ghita is now prohibited from keeping any animal for five years. This conviction should serve as a warning to anyone who is trading animals illegally that the Met will investigate this criminal activity.”
Paula Boyden, veterinary director for the Dogs Trust, said: “We are delighted to see that this case has resulted in a prosecution and hope this significant outcome will act as a deterrent to other criminals.
"Our recent investigation into the puppy smuggling scandal has shown that sadly, three years after we first highlighted the issue, puppies are still being illegally imported via the Pet Travel Scheme and sold to unsuspecting consumers.
"In 2015 we set up our Puppy Pilot scheme which has funded the quarantine costs of over 500 illegally imported puppies before responsibly re-homing them through our re-homing centres.
"We very much hope that pet travel legislation will be revised to ensure that this sickening trade is stopped.”
Keith Bottomley, deputy chairman of the City Corporation’s Environmental Services Committee, said: “Importing and selling animals illegally is a crime we take very seriously. We will always enforce animal health and welfare legislation robustly.
“By working collaboratively with the Metropolitan Police Service’s Taskforce, and with the expertise and powers of our Animal Health Officers, we have been able to investigate a broader range of offences than one agency could do alone.”
Keep up to date with the latest news in west London via the free getwestlondon app.
You can set up your app to see all the latest news and events from your area, plus receive push notifications for breaking news.