A PYRAMID Hill family left dozens of dogs completely matted with their own filth, kept multiple puppies in raised wire cages as small as one square metre and left infections untreated at its puppy farm.
Dean Peace, 46, and his parents Phyllis Peace, 74, and John Peace, 75, pleaded guilty in the Kerang Magistrates' Court on Thursday to a combined 200 animal cruelty offences.
RSPCA inspectors, Loddon Shire officers and Victoria Police found 235 dogs and puppies kept in pens in four separate sheds at the Pyramid Hill property during raids in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Thirty-one dogs were dangerously underweight, 35 were suffering severe matting of the fur from fecal matter, 30 had dental disease, 10 suffered ear infections and three had untreated wounds.
Other conditions included heart murmurs, prolapsed eyelids and eye disease.
One puppy had to be euthanised.
Representing the RSPCA in court, Trish Riddell said the operation could best be described as "filthy".
"Dogs were living on concrete floors, there was no heating or protection from the weather, the sleeping area was a piece of wood, there was no escape from their own waste," she said.
"There was an overwhelming smell of ammonia from the urine, which when it becomes ammonia hydroxide can cause severe irritation and burning."
The RSPCA has seized all the dogs to be either treated or re-homed.
Defence counsel Jason Gullaci said the family had tried to hold on to the business with the last of its strength, but it should have ended years ago.
The court heard the puppy breeding business JB and PW Peace Pty Ltd - which faced 77 of the 200 charges - earned $253,000 through 570 sales to pet stores I Love Pets in Richmond and Top Pets in Highpoint Shopping Centre.
The sales took place over two years and five months, until the first raid on the property on August 15, 2013.
During the raid, 28 dogs and four puppies were immediately seized in need of urgent veterinary treatment.
The RSPCA and police attended the property again on August 26 where they found similar conditions, including dogs kept in raised wire cages and piles of fecal matter underneath the cages.
A further 71 dogs were surrendered on August 28 and September 9, 2013.
The remaining dogs were seized on January 21, 2015.
Loddon Shire officers also found 34 dogs kept in cages at a neighbouring property, with no permit.
Overall, there were 90 dogs registered to the Peace family and 106 unregistered.
Loddon Shire pressed charges against the family on Thursday, including having pens not of a minimum size, no dog identification on the pens, waste not being disposed in effluent pits and the operation was not kept in a suitable condition.
The court heard Dean Peace had started breeding puppies in 1996, but was involved in life-threatening car crashes in 1998 and 2007.
His parents Phyllis and John took on a greater role in the puppy farm before Dean returned to full health.
Mr Gullaci said the parents wanted to keep the puppy farm operating as Dean was "unemployable" after his crashes and the business was "what he loved doing".
"I have to try to put in some context how a family, previously of good character, can find themselves in this kind of situation," he said.
"His parents said the dog business was critical to Dean's good mental health.
"Of course, in recent years it was clearly a financial business. It had the hallmarks of a family business designed to make money."
Phyllis maintained the financial side, while Dean "cared" for the dogs.
The three will be sentenced on August 19 in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court.
RSPCA inspectorate manager Allie Jalbert said the case was "the tip of the iceberg" for puppy farms.
"This is how so many operate," she said.
"You go to these raids and the conditions are so horrendous you actually become sick for a while.
"This is the most difficult case we've seen in 20 years of investigating."
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