Dear Readers of Raised by Wolves:
Please read the second part of my December 29 post before commenting, linking, or forwarding this post.
The Mirror, 27 December 2010
House of Horrors Puppy Farmer Wants Another Pup.Convicted Tax Dodger and Puppy Farmer Says She Has Been Rehabilitated
Swindon -- Convicted tax evader and notorious puppy-farmer Victoria Michaels has begged Wiltshire courts to let her go back to owning dogs. At present this would be a violation of the terms of her probation. The wealthy estate agent has told Judge Simon Walcott that she has been rehabilitated, returning to her career selling luxury homes, and has donated over £15,000 to the RSPCA, as well as paying the bill for her tax crimes.
Michaels came under police scrutiny in 2006, when a complaint from a neighbor about a bad smell and swarms of flies revealed a house of horrors behind the wooden fence of her smallholding outside the quiet village of Goatacre. Michaels was well-known for over a decade in Kennel Club circles for her “Powderpuff Kennel.” She entered several of her animals in dog shows, and sold surplus puppies to fanciers.
Authorities seized over fifty breeding dogs -- mostly bichons frise, a small and cuddly white breed that can sell for up to £1000 at pet stores. The dogs were kept chained to metal barrels or in rabbit-hutches in a dirty yard. Michaels was not licensed to breed dogs, and had forged documents in order to sell puppies to brokers and pet stores throughout Britain.
But what officers found in the shed and manure pile at the back of the dog yard was to shock the nation. Hidden under the manure pile were bodies of dozens of dogs that Michaels said had died of “old age” or distemper, but they showed signs of having been beaten, stabbed, strangled, smothered or electrocuted.
Inside the shed authorities discovered a bloody crowbar, a bloody nylon noose hanging from a beam, plastic bags and twisted wire that prosecutors say were used to suffocate unprofitable dogs, and an electrical cord that had been modified with clips, which they say she used to electrocute several stud dogs that had proved infertile.
Michaels’ co-defendant, Anthony Taylor, occupied the cottage on the property and served as kennel manager, feeding the dogs and arranging the sale of the puppies.
Taylor and his associate Lawrence Phillips gave evidence against Michaels, telling police and prosecutors that Michaels was ruthless in culling non-performing breeding dogs and unsaleable puppies. She seemed to take revenge on animals that disappointed her.
Taylor described the death of one bitch whose puppies had been born outside in December and later died of exposure. “I don’t have time for bad mothers,” Michaels reportedly told him, before grabbing the little dog by the back legs and striking her head repeatedly against the corner of the shed, then dumping her body on the manure heap.
Reject puppies with defects like cleft palates, broken limbs, and hernias, were hung inside the shed and dispatched with blows from a crowbar.
A bitch that did not conceive and fought with the stud dog had a plastic bag wired over her head and was left hanging by the neck in the shed overnight, after Michaels told Taylor “They either pay their rent or they get out.” When Taylor discovered the dog alive the next morning, Michaels allegedly laughed and told him that “She’s earned a holiday in Texas” -- a reference to the electrical cord that Michaels then used to “execute” the still-conscious animal.
Prosecutors eventually brought charges against Michaels for over £30,000 in unpaid taxes on her illegal puppy sales, as well as charges of operating an unlicensed breeding kennel. In return for withdrawal of animal cruelty charges, Michaels relinquished ownership of the surviving dogs to the Swindon and District Animal Haven.
Michaels served eight months in Holloway and was let out on probation in October 2009. As a condition of her probation, Michaels is not allowed to own or or have animals under her care.
Michaels’ solicitor has appealed against this condition, arguing that:
“Ms. Michaels has paid her debt to society, and sincerely repents of her crimes, as is shown by her personal and professional conduct since her release.
Ms. Michaels owned at least one bichon frise from when she was a small child, and wishes to once again enjoy the companionship of a dog, just as so many families enjoy the companionship of the puppies supplied by Powderpuff Kennels. In addition, Ms. Michaels is now caring for her elderly mother, Brenda, who was forced to put down her own bichon frise when she moved in with her daughter. Brenda Michaels had no part in the commercial operation of Powderpuff Kennels, yet is being denied the comfort of a dog in her final years.”
The RSPCA supports Michaels’ plea. An RSPCA spokesman told The Mirror, “We have been working with Ms. Michaels since her time in Holloway. Ms. Michaels has been eager to help the RSPCA in our ongoing efforts to educate the public about the abuses of illegal puppy farms. Such efforts are important to prevent vulnerable dog fanciers from falling prey to these enterprises. We believe that Ms. Michaels, with her many years of experience caring for dogs, would provide a good home for a puppy.”