THREE family members responsible for one of the worst puppy farms prosecuted by the RSPCA have been fined $205,000 plus $82,580 in costs.
Dean Peace, 46, and his parents John and Phyllis Peace, aged 75 and 74, of Cohuna, were sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Thursday to more than 200 combined charges for the puppy farm at Pyramid Hill.
The farm kept 235 dogs and puppies at its peak until the first RSPCA raid in August 2013. The family has been allowed to keep two working dogs for their cattle farm.
The dogs will be registered to John Peace, but Dean Peace is expected to provide their care.
Magistrate David Faram considered the family’s circumstances in imposing the fine, believing a prison term would be inappropriate.
He described the puppy farm as “unkempt and in a generally squalid condition”.
“It was plain to see that all of the animals were living in terrible circumstances,” Mr Faram said.
“It was also plain from the video and the photographs that most, if not all, of the animals and puppies were in a dreadful physical condition.”
The magistrate found Dean Peace did not seek veterinary assistance when necessary, despite Mr Peace’s assertions.
He also found his parents, John and Phyllis, had no prior offences and had lived unblemished lives.
“They are elderly and I am satisfied that they made various decisions at times over the years that they thought were in the best interests of their son Dean, particularly the decisions to continue to operate the puppy farming business – apparently for Dean’s benefit – after Dean’s first, then second serious motor vehicle accident,” Mr Faram said.
“That said, it is impossible for me to ignore the very significant financial contribution that the puppy farming business made to the finances of the farm generally.”
The farm earned $243,000 in sales over two years and five months, until December 2013.
Dean Peace was fined $25,000 for the animal cruelty charges, and $3000 for Loddon Shire charges.
John Peace was fined $60,000, and $15,000 for violating Loddon Shire planning laws.
Phyllis Peace also received a $60,000 fine.
Their company – JB and PW Peace Pty Ltd – was fined $40,000.
They were also made to pay all RSPCA costs of $67,130, and half of the Loddon Shire court costs. They came to $15,450.
During the first day of sentencing in the Kerang Magistrates’ Court in May, RSPCA prosecutors outlined the “filthy” conditions at the farm and the range of infectious diseases rampant among the dogs and puppies.
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.
The RSPCA described the Peace family puppy farm as just the “tip of the iceberg” for illegal dog breeding businesses in country Victoria.
The case was the biggest the society has prosecuted in Victoria and it welcomed the final outcome of a $205,000 fine, plus court costs.
RSPCA inspectorate manager Allie Jalbert said it was pleasing to see illegal operators being prosecuted, but said more work needed to be done.
“This case has brought to light the hidden suffering of dogs in these facilities, and we would say this is the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
“We know this is the tip of iceberg and we are out there investigating further ones and you will see other cases like this this before the courts in the near future.”
Defence counsel Jason Gullaci spoke of Dean Peace’s two life threatening car crashes – in 1998 and 2007 – during the second day of sentencing.
Dean’s parents John and Phyllis Peace left him in charge of the operations of the farm, as his physical and mental capabilities had been greatly diminished since the second crash, destroying employment prospects.