Combe Raleigh kennels owner admits being at fault for pet dog's death

PUBLISHED: 11:24 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:55 23 August 2017

Paul Sparks at this year's Honiton Show. Inset: Archie, who died at Barn Close Kennels in Combe Raleigh in October 2016.

Paul Sparks at this year's Honiton Show. Inset: Archie, who died at Barn Close Kennels in Combe Raleigh in October 2016.


Paul William Sparks, 61, who owns Barn Close Kennels in Combe Raleigh, appeared at Exeter Magistrates' Court on Tuesday (August 22), and pleaded guilty to five charges.

A dog which was killed at a kennels near Honiton was kept in the kennel owners’ deep freeze, a court heard.

Paul William Sparks, 61, who owns Barn Close Kennels in Combe Raleigh, appeared at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (August 22), where he pleaded guilty to five charges.

At a previous hearing, magistrates heard that Sparks had taken Archie – a Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross – on board at the kennels on October 28, 2016.

Mr Gavin Collett, prosecuting for East Devon District Council, told the court that Archie escaped from his enclosure on the morning of his arrival.

Mr Collett said: “That morning, we do not know how or why, but Archie escaped from the kennel into what should have been a secure corridor.

“It was not secure and he escaped into an outside area.”

The court heard that Archie’s body was later found at the kennels, and an autopsy was carried out to determine the cause of his death, which found it was the result of injuries sustained after being attacked by another dog.

The court heard that Archie’s body was discovered by a member of staff after he had been reported missing at 3pm that day.

Mr Collett said: “The requirement of the [kennels] licence is that if any dog is injured or killed, a vet has to be called. One was not called.

“The local authority must also be informed. One was not.”

Mr Collett told the bench that no contact was made to Archie’s owner until her parents called at the kennels to retrieve the dog two days later.

He said Archie’s owner was told the dog had died and been sent to Sparks’ vet, so she asked the body be transferred to her vet.

Concluding, Mr Collett said: “It became clear that the dog had never been sent to the vet and was actually locked in Sparks’ deep freeze.”

Following the incident, Archie’s owner lodged a complaint to East Devon District Council.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Sparks pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and three charges under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963.

Sparks’ defence counsel submitted a legal argument in the form of a ‘mitigation bundle’.

The case was adjourned to September 25.

Following the court case, a spokesman for Barn Close Kennels issued the following statement.

He said: “Paul Sparks, the owner of Barn Close Kennels, was horrified and deeply saddened by the death of Archie, a much-loved pet, who was staying at his kennels in October 2016.

“Mr Sparks, and his team of four employees, fully accepts that this terrible event should never have happened. They apologise unreservedly to Archie’s owners.

“Barn Close Kennels has been caring for people’s pets for over 17 years; and have cared for literally thousands of cats and dogs during that time. Kennel staff are still mystified as to how Archie escaped from his enclosure and then into the exercise compound at the kennels.

“This is the first time any attack has occurred at the kennels and all the staff were deeply shocked and distressed at what happened. The kennels’ employees are all animal lovers and care deeply about each pet in their care.

“Whilst the prosecution have not proceeded with half of the charges against Paul Sparks, that does not reduce the lessons to be learned from the proceedings by Paul and the kennels. This is the first time, in their 17-year history, that they have faced magistrate’s court action. Fully aware of their responsibilities, the kennels and their staff have made improvements, since that terrible day, to prevent any possible repeat of this tragedy. This includes increased staff training, new procedures and a daily audit of each dog’s movements at the kennels.

“The kennels are complying with recommendations in local authority inspection reports and Barn Close Kennels is determined to continue to be a safe and happy environment where pets stay while their owners are away.”

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