The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) chairman Dr Andrew Madeiros called for tougher sentences for illegal dog breeding after a woman was fined $800 for the offence yesterday.

Dr Andrew Madeiros, veterinarian of Ettrick Animal Hospital spoke out after Wendy Francis was found guilty of illegally breeding a Shih Tzu and keeping five dogs at her home without permission from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Prosecutor Karen King told the court how animal wardens seized the four eight-week old puppies and their mother at Francis’ home on June 29.

Dr Madeiros said Shih Tzus can sell for $2,500 to $3,000 and said the fine pales in comparison.

He said: “If you breed and you have five puppies, you have $10,000 so getting fined $800 or whatever isn’t a whole lot of a deterrent.

“Certainly losing the puppies and not being able to sell them is.

“When you balance it with the value of the puppies, it’s not bad but if they lose the puppies as well, it’s a deterrent.”

He continued: “It’s $800 versus getting possibly $10,000 so when you look at it like that, probably not.

“I think the fine could be higher. It’s not a new rule so it amazes me people who don’t seem to understand the rules.”

Dr Madeiros also said it was a common belief in Bermuda that it is illegal to breed banned dogs, but not illegal to breed other kinds without a licence.

“I think there’s been so much publicity with pitbulls, people think you can breed any dog.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re breeding, it’s for any breed of dog that you need a licence.”

As far as how common illegal breeding is, Dr Madeiros said: “I think it’s reasonably common. It’s not an everyday occurrence but it happens several times a year.

“Certainly as a vet, I’m connected. “We do hear of cases where someone had bred illegally so I think it’s not infrequent. Definitely it seems to be repeat offenders.”

The vet said occasionally someone doesn’t know a permit is needed but once they find out, the matter is solved.

He said: “There are cases where certain people do it over and over again.

“I think they are trying to tighten up and make it a point. You have needed a permit for a long, long time.”

A Government ministry spokesperson said: “Underground breeding – meaning breeding and hiding the puppies – does not appear to be a problem, but seems to occur primarily with pitbulls.

“It seems to have slowed recently. Illegal breeding, simply breeding without the prerequisite permit, does continue throughout the community.

“Wardens of the Department of Environmental Protection continue to enforce the law. But we do have compassion in circumstances of accidental breeding where the owner has voluntarily come forward to remedy the situation.

“We look for remedies that do not involve protracted court proceedings and caging the animals for extended periods of time.”

By Mikaela Ian Pearman BermudaSun