Belfast Telegraph

Carrick man's starved spaniels like 'walking skeletons'

By Jennifer Conway

This is the man whose cruelty and neglect of defenceless little King Charles spaniels led to the setting up of an Ireland wide dog rescue charity.

Carrickfergus man Gordon Laverty’s dogs were so badly starved they looked like ‘walking skeletons’.

Middle-aged Laverty has pleaded guilty to 10 animal welfare charges including four of causing unnecessary suffering to the spaniel dogs.

The disgraced dog breeder is due to be sentenced on Tuesday at Belfast City Magistrates’ Court.

King Charles Spaniels found at his Carrick home were starving and unable to stand, their coats so long and matted they looked like piles of discarded rubbish.

The shocking discovery led animal lover Catherine Southwell to set up the charity organisation ‘Cavaliers in Need’.

“I will never forget the horrific sight of those dogs, they were starving, with their coats caked in dirt,” recalled Catherine.

“ I prayed they would survive.”

Explaining the background, Catherine said: “I’ve always loved Cavaliers and the rescue service came about by accident in June 2013 when a friend rang me to see if I would take a dog that had been found in Co Antrim.

“It was in a very bad way with an open neck wound and was also malnourished. When I took the dog to the vet it had a chip and it turned out to be from a puppy farm.

“We couldn’t get in touch with the owner so we contacted the local council and they went to see the owner to tell him we had his dog. The council staff were so horrified by what they saw at the puppy farm that they rang me and asked if I could take another nine dogs.

“They described what they found as ‘hell on earth’ and I will never forget seeing those dogs. It was absolutely horrific.

“The first thing was the smell and you couldn’t tell which end of a dog was the head and which was the tail because they were so badly matted and covered in their own filth.

“We got a lovely local dog groomer to shave them and what was underneath was another sight I will never forget. They were virtually starving to death, just skin and bone and it was a miracle they were alive.”

Cavaliers in Need now takes up every hour of Catherine’s spare time and she runs the service with the help of a team of over 80 dedicated volunteers and 30 foster families.

Support for the group has spread through word of mouth and social media — they now have more than 7,000 followers on Facebook.

Catherine says she is stunned by how quickly it has grown. The vast majority of the dogs she rescues are from the puppy farms and often at the request of owners who no longer have any use for the dogs either because they are too ill or too old to breed. She also has re-homed many pets who were neglected or abandoned by their owners.

Lisa Moore, a volunteer at Cavaliers in Need, who also adopted one of the rescued King Charles spaniel dogs, recalled: “When I got ‘Charlie’, the wee pup had never walked on the ground. He is a great boy now but he will never get over what happened mentally. If anyone walks into my home wearing a cap, he goes mad.”

Catherine is so passionate about Cavalier dogs that she and her family now share their home with 18 of the precious pets. She says she never ceases to be horrified by the conditions some unfortunate dogs are being kept in.

“We have rescued different breeds but we can’t rescue them all which is why we concentrate on Cavaliers. I can’t even bear to think about the others, it’s just too much,” she added.

Foster dogs can stay with families for a couple weeks or some months, depending on their health, and the group is constantly looking for new people willing to volunteer to take a dog into their home, with over 500 dogs rescued in the last year.

“People are very passionate about Cavaliers, they are an adorable breed,” said Catherine.

“They have the sweetest nature and are so loving — there is not an aggressive bone in their bodies.”

She explained: “Despite everything most of them have been through we find that with a little TLC and love they usually end up very happy pets.”

Gordon Laverty, whose address in court papers was given as Red Brae Road, Carrickfergus has admitted four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to King Charles Spaniels in June  2013.

He has also admitted six charges of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of animals he was responsible for were met in keeping with good practice.

Advise on buying a puppy

  •  Make sure you see the puppy in its breeding environment and ask to look at the kennelling conditions if they were not raised within the breeder’s house. If you suspect the conditions are not right then do not buy a puppy.
  • Ask to see the puppy’s mother.
  • Ask to see the relevant health test certificates for the puppy’s parents.
  • Report your concerns to the relevant authority if you suspect the breeder is a puppy farmer.

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