Norfolk dog breeder could face jail after changing plea to admit fraud

Lisa Walsh at Norwich Crown Court.
Photo by Simon Finlay. Lisa Walsh at Norwich Crown Court. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Thursday, May 22, 2014
10:47 AM

A Norfolk dog breeder accused of duping unsuspecting pet owners out of thousands of pounds by claiming puppies she sold were Kennel Club registered when in fact they were not, dramatically changed her plea and admitted participating in a fraudulent business on the third day of her trial. Her case has now been adjourned for reports.

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Case studies

One woman responded to an advert for Westie puppies for sale, in Norwich, placed by rogue breeder Lisa Walsh, after it stated they were £495 Kennel Club registered, vaccinated and vet checked.

She phoned a mobile and spoke to a woman calling herself Lisa. She went to Greenacres Farm, in Tasburgh, on November 9, 2011, and was shown into a room where there were two adult Westies in cages. They were told they were the parents, but they were never let out and there were four puppies in the top cage.

The woman chose a male puppy, but said Walsh provided no information regarding the puppy’s parents. When she brought the puppy home it was very subdued and had diarrhoea. The puppy was taken to a vet and given medication but still suffered problems and his skin was dry and flaky.

The woman also kept contacting Walsh about the Kennel Club registration documents and leaving messages on her answerphone.

After about six weeks, the woman got a Kennel Club registration document in the post, but it was for a girl puppy, when the woman had bought a male puppy.

She phoned Walsh, who said she had been really busy and asked her to return it and she would send her one for a male. The woman then decided to keep hold of the registration document and contact Norfolk Trading Standards.

In a statement she said if she had known Walsh was not a registered dog breeder she would not have even visited her, let alone buy a puppy from her.

Another Norwich woman bought a male Westie puppy from Walsh, and was told she would get the Kennel Club registration forms through the post. The day after getting the puppy, it started vomiting and had diarrhoea. It was taken to the vets and was said to be suffering from infections as a result of unclean conditions. When contacted about the matter, Walsh denied it was her responsibility. When the registration documents arrived it was later shown by a DNA test that the details of the puppy’s parents, were false.

The woman stated to trading standards officers: “If the dog had not been advertised as Kennel Club registered, she would not have even telephoned the breeder and definitely not purchased him off her.”

Another man, who bought a Westie puppy from Walsh, was told the puppy’s mother had died giving birth when he asked to see the parents.

He said that he was informed it was a one-off litter and therefore did not believe she was breeding a large number of dogs.

Another woman bought a dog and bitch Labrador puppies for a total of £700. On the way home the pups had diarrhoea, which continued over the weekend. They were taken to the vets and both have continued to have digestive problems. She stated they paid extra money for the puppies thinking they were Kennel Club registered and would not have paid the price for them if they had known.

Another woman who bought a Labrador puppy for £400 had serious concerns about his health after getting him home. He was taken to the vets in Diss, but after undergoing surgery he later died from Parvovirus.

The woman reported the matter to Norfolk Trading Standards, and although she eventually got a refund, she was very upset about the death of her dog and believes it is not right that she was sold a Labrador puppy suffering from Parvovirus.

Another woman who bought a Labrador puppy for her six year-old disabled son from Walsh for £350, but it has since been diagnosed with hip dysplasia in both hips by a vet in Fakenham. It has had an operation on one hip which cost £5000 and will have to have the second hip replaced, when the puppy is older.

A disgraced Norfolk dog breeder could face jail after she admitted duping pet owners out of more than £171,000 by claiming puppies she sold were Kennel Club registered, when in fact they were not.

Lisa Walsh, 47, who had previously been living at an address in Barnham Broom, operated a dog breeding business from a variety of addresses, in Norfolk, including a rental property Greenacres Farm, Tasburgh, as well as in Cheshire.

She is said to have raked in around £171,000 from the scam, as Norfolk Trading Standards officers diligently went through receipt books seized on her arrest, which set out details of cash conned from unsuspecting buyers. She would charge on average around £500 a time for the puppies.

When arrested for the fraud she was found to have more than £43,000 stashed in a building society account,

Walsh also falsified paperwork to give the impression the puppies had been inoculated prior to sale, against deadly diseases such as parvovirus, when in fact they had not, as the health and wellbeing of dogs was something said to be of an “irrelevance” to Walsh in her pursuit of profit.

David Wilson, prosecuting on behalf of Norfolk Trading Standards, told how some of the puppies bought from Walsh, were vomiting and had diarrhoea after the new owners took them home. Others suffered from health problems, with one Labrador puppy she sold needing a £5000 operation on its hip and another having to be sadly put down after it contracted parvovirus.

He said pet owners conned by Walsh said they would not have paid the price she was asking or have contacted her about buying a puppy in the first place if they had known the true situation.

Walsh had denied participating in a fraudulent business between September 2009 and October 2012, but changed her plea to guilty on the third day of what was to be a four-week trial, at Norwich Crown Court.

The jury was discharged from reaching any verdict on a second charge of transferring criminal property.

Walsh at an earlier hearing had admitted two allegations of fraud in making false representations that the puppies had been vaccinated, when they had not.

Sentencing was adjourned for reports to a date to be fixed, but Judge Anthony Bate said the diligent work by trading standards going through her receipt books had shown she had made about £171,000 from the fraudulent business.

He indicated that she could face jail for the offence, but said that this might be suspended because of the strong personal mitigation in her case, including the fact she was a single parent with a child with special needs.

The court was told her plea was entered on the basis that it was not a fraudulent business from the outset, but became so after the death of her husband in 2009, when she moved to Norfolk.

During the trial, the jury was told how Walsh achieved inflated sales prices for her puppies by claiming they were Kennel Club registered, when they were not.

She was said to have undertaken a number of steps to deceive, including buying in litters of puppies from other sources, then claiming she bred them herself.

She would also register extra puppies, that did not exist to generate “phantom” paperwork.

On occasions, when Walsh did not own an adult of the same breed to show as the mother, she informed prospective buyers the mothers had died giving birth. This happened in relation to three separate litters of West Highland Terriers and a litter of Cocker Spaniels.

Following complaints, Norfolk Trading Standards launched an investigation and visited Greenacres Farm, in April 2012, she was arrested on suspicion of fraud.

When trading standards officers entered the barn area it contained a number of dogs including black, chocolate and yellow Labradors and puppies, a Boxer dog and puppies,West Highland Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and two Cocker Spaniel puppies.

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