Dog-sitter at centre of missing pets row banned from keeping them for five years

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Louise Lawford has been at the centre of a missing dogs row (SWNS)

A dog-sitter has been banned from keeping the animals for five years after she found herself at the centre of a row over pets which allegedly went missing while in her care.

Louise Lawford, who ran Pawford Paws in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, admitted an animal welfare offence and three business licensing breaches connected to her now defunct dog-boarding firm.

Mrs Lawford, of Flackwood Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to four charges in total after a prosecution brought by Birmingham City Council.

Its investigation was triggered after an incident in June last year, when Mrs Lawford claimed to have "lost" five dogs left in her care, while walking in Hopwas Woods, near Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Missing pets Pablo, Maggie, Charlie, Ralph and Jack became known as the "Tamworth Five", as their owners appealed for information. Their fate remains unknown.

Ralph and Charlie were left in Lawford's care while owner April Lock went to Spain (SWNS)
Lawford, left, pleaded guilty to boarding more than the maximum number of three small dogs allowed at her kennels (SWNS)

However, the court heard a further five charges relating to that alleged incident had been withdrawn.

Explaining in court why, Jonathan Barker, prosecuting, said they had been "predicated on the defendant's own explanation that the dogs were lost as she took them for a walk”.

"That's an explanation is not accepted by the prosecution," he added. “However, a police investigation resulted in no charges being brought against her and unfortunately we are unable to say with any degree of certainty what has happened to the dogs.

“It would be artificial to mount a case against her based on an explanation we do not accept.”

He added: “There was a search and, despite being chipped, the dogs were never recovered.”

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Mrs Lawford sat, with her head bowed, in the dock at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on Thursday, for what district judge Joanna Dickens called "a very strange case”.

Behind her, the owners of the five dogs Mrs Lawford has accepted she lost, packed in to the public gallery, listening intently to the proceedings.

Dog owners (left to right) April Lock, Rebecca Parsons, and Liz and Jim Egan outside Birmingham Magistrates' Court after Lawford was banned from keeping the animals for five years (PA)

The 48-year-old, who owns a rescue labrador, pleaded guilty to boarding more than the maximum number of three small dogs allowed at her kennels between 18-23 June last year.

She also admitted boarding dogs from different households without written consent from their owners, and without ensuring dogs were vaccinated, flea-treated and wormed, over the same period.

Mrs Lawford further pleaded guilty to failing to seek veterinary treatment for a West Highland Terrier, named Charlie, after he developed a skin infection on his muzzle, while under her care.

The court was told that her council licence was revoked last year.

Tom Walkling, in mitigation, said "life-long animal-lover" Mrs Lawford was under "extreme pressure and stress" after the breakdown of her marriage to Richard Lawford.

The dog owners had appealed for information as to the whereabouts of their pets (PA)

He said: "Can I start by expressing her extreme and continuing remorse for what happened to those dogs and for her conduct in June last year…

“She does want to offer her apologies and sincere remorse for the pain she knows those dog owners suffered, as she is herself a life-long dog owner and lover.”

In court, Mr Walkling told the judge that someone in the public gallery had muttered "dog killer" at Mrs Lawford as she walked past.

Sentencing and banning Mrs Lawford from keeping dogs, the judge said: "I consider that, in deciding this issue, I have to take account of lost dogs.

"It would be wrong not to.”

Mrs Lawford was also fined £800 for the offences and ordered to pay £2,616 costs.

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