Two members of the same Kent family were handed suspended sentences this week for a string of animal welfare offences connected with running a puppy farm and cock fighting.

John Cook and William Cook, both of Longfield Avenue, Longfield, near Dartford, all appeared at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court in January for a four-day trial.

John and William both faced a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act. John was accused of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs for failing to provide them with veterinary care and keeping them in unsuitable conditions, and William faced a number of charges related to keeping cockerels to fight.

John Cook pleaded guilty to a number of offences and William Cook was convicted of offences under the Animal Welfare Act. The pair were sentenced at Medway Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (25 February).

John Cook was sentenced to 90 days in prison – suspended for two years – and ordered to complete 160 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay £1,000 in costs, a victim surcharge of £115 and was disqualified from keeping dogs for three years.

William Cook was given a 120-day prison term – suspended for two years – and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in costs, a £115 victim surcharge and was disqualified from keeping all animals for three years.

RSPCA officers executed a warrant at a property in Kent on 31 July 2018 after concerns were raised by members of the public who had bought puppies from the family.

Eighteen dogs, including spaniels and beagles, were removed along with two cockerels.

RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport – from the charity’s Special Operations Unit, which investigates serious and organised animal crime – said: “Many of the dogs being kept at the site had health and welfare problems, including untreated gastrointestinal and dental issues.

“We also had serious concerns over the conditions they were being kept in. The dogs and puppies were being kept in dirty, wet conditions with no bedding.”

Officers also seized a number of mobile phones from the site and a suspected cockfighting pit was discovered during the warrant. Analysis of the phones showed the brothers had been involved with fighting and the pit was forensically tested by experts who discovered the blood of at least four different types of cockerels.

In mitigation, the court gave John Cook credit for his guilty pleas and heard that William Cook was remorseful.

The judge said that the living conditions of the animals were not appropriate and that issues should have been recognised earlier. He labelled William Cook’s involvement in cockfighting as ‘abhorrent’. He also commended the charity for doing a good job preparing the case.

John Cook entered a guilty plea to a fraud offence (where he dishonestly made false representation as to the condition and breeding of puppies being sold, contrary to Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006) in April 2019 and was sentenced to a 12-month prison term – suspended for two years – and was ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation and £1,000 in costs. William Cook entered a not guilty plea and the case was dropped against him.

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