1. ITV Report

Norfolk gang who sold sick dogs and puppies to unsuspecting owners jailed

Two members of a family from Norfolk who ran a puppy farm which kept dogs in terrible conditions have been jailed.

Michael Rushmer, 27, and Jacob Murphy, 27, were both sentenced to three and a half years in prison at Norwich Crown Court after they admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Murphy's partner, Zoe Rushmer, received a two-year suspended sentence for her role.

The family tricked people into buying dogs which they had made out had been brought up in loving homes, when in reality, the animals had been kept in poor conditions at different addresses in Norfolk.

In some case, the dogs hadn't been fed or had access to water.

The RSCPA launched an investigation into puppy selling in Norfolk and Suffolk following a number of calls from distressed members of the public who had bought dogs which had fallen ill or died.

Michael Rushmer was jailed for three and a half years. Credit: Facebook

Responding to the complaints, RSPCA inspectors visited the Rushmers in Thurlton near Lowestoft on a number of occasions to offer advice about dog breeding, but when things didn't improve, they raided the farm in August 2017 and discovered dogs in awful conditions.

Some of the animals were wet and dirty, while others were hidden away in dark sheds having not been vaccinated.

A total of 74 dogs and puppies were removed during the warrant and taken into RSPCA care.

"It is not, I hope, trite for me to reiterate the country's reputation as a nation of animal lovers and this vile puppy farm strikes at the very heart of this nation's love for its pets, dogs in particular," said Judge Andrew Shaw as he sentenced members of the family on Tuesday.

"To take from hard-working and law-abiding folk sums of money that are not inconsequential in order to sell them sickly and diseased dogs, so poorly that many do not survive, is about as callous and mean-spirited fraud as I have come across for some time."

Zoe Rushmer was given a suspended sentence. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Michael Rushmer was seen as having the principal role in the venture.

He bought some of the dogs from travellers sites and those animals had introduced parvovirus at his farm - a highly contagious disease.

His lawyer said he'd taken over the business from his father and it had become too much for him.

Many of these dogs were sold to unsuspecting owners, many of whom had to then fork out even more money in vets fees.

Prosecuting counsel Hazel Stevens estimated the family had made about £300,000 from their crimes, although defence teams suggested it was nearer to £150,000.

"People are buying these puppies in good faith, parting with a considerable amount of money to then end up with a very sick puppy," RSPCA Inspector Amy Pellegrini told ITV News Anglia.

"This is the worst case I've dealt with and in some cases the puppies actually died. The RSPCA can't condone that - the illegal barbaric trade they were operating."

All three defendants admitted a number of other charges relating to animal welfare and the judge has banned them from owning or keeping dogs for life.

A fourth defendant was given a conditional discharge.

Jean Boyes, 67, from Bramerton In Norfolk, had also pleaded guilty to being involved in the conspiracy to defraud but was said to have had a minor role in the operation.

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