Archie the dog.

Owner ordered to pay fines and costs of more than £4,000

A kennel owner has been prosecuted by East Devon District Council and ordered to pay fines and costs of more than £4,000 after a dog staying at the kennels escaped from its pen and was killed by another dog.

Paul Sparks, the owner of Barn Close Kennels in Combe Raleigh, Honiton, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Animal Boarding Establishments Act and was sentenced by Exeter Magistrates on Monday October 30. Barn Close Kennels is licensed as an Animal Boarding Establishment by East Devon District Council.

The court was told by Mr Gavin Collett, prosecuting on behalf of the council, that the council’s Environmental Health Team was alerted to the incident by the owner of Archie, a small jackahuahua dog, last November. The owner had left Archie at the kennels last October for two nights. When the owner returned to collect Archie she was told by Mr Sparks, that Archie had escaped from his pen and had been killed by another dog. 

Environmental Health officers made an unannounced visit to the kennels a few days after the complaint was made. Mr Sparks was not present but they were shown around by an employee who was in charge on that day and who had been in charge on the day of the incident.

The employee said Archie had escaped from his pen but she did not know how, and that he had then gone out of the kennel block, through an open door and into a nearby paddock through a hole in the fence. In the paddock was an unsupervised dog which killed Archie. Staff did not notice that Archie was missing for four hours.

Mr Collett told magistrates that the officers saw a gap under the kennel door, and a space above it and a very small or agile dog could have escaped either way. They also noticed that the doors to the kennel block were half-height doors and the staff member said they were usually secured in the open position as staff were in and out all the time.  Fencing around the paddock was defective and was made up of a number of different types of mesh. 

Although most of the mesh was small, some repairs had been carried out with ‘weld mesh’ panels with a larger mesh size. There was also a hole under the fence near where Archie’s body was found which could have been used by a small dog to access the paddock.

Mr Sparks had not informed the owner, a vet or the council about what had happened for several days.

Mr David Campbell, defending, said that the incident was tragic and unprecedented and as a result Mr Sparks had made a number of improvements at the kennels.  He said Mr Sparks made an error in not informing anyone and did not know the best thing to do.  It was not a deliberate action of cruelty, said Mr Campbell, but Mr Sparks wanted to put it behind him and move forward.  He added that his priority is to comply with the licence conditions in the future.

Exeter magistrates said they were concerned that Archie was able to get out of his kennel, through the corridor and into the paddock without being noticed.  They said it was “reprehensible” of Mr Sparks not to contact the owner, the vet or the council.  They took into account the work that had been carried out at the kennels since the incident and his commitment to improving conditions. They decided not to disqualify him from holding a licence but fined him a total of £1,050, victim support costs of £85 and  ordered him to pay costs of £3,000.

After the hearing, Cllr Tom Wright, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:

The council takes its responsibilities for issuing licences and inspecting premises extremely seriously and officers work hard to ensure that standards are met by all the kennels within East Devon. 

Where concerns arise or incidents occur, they will carry out a robust investigation and will take enforcement action whenever it is justified.  In this case, the owner of the dog expected the kennels to meet those standards and it fell short, leading to the death of the dog. 

Council officers will inspect this kennels again soon to ensure that all the required works have been completed so that this kind of incident cannot happen again.