A TYLDESLEY farmer who runs an animal rescue centre has been cleared of cruelty to dogs.
William Hartley, 60, had been accused of causing unnecessary suffering to 33 puppies, an Alaskan malamute and a mastiff bitch.
But magistrates accepted evidence that the ailing puppies had been left at the 60-year-old’s farm the night before an RSPCA raid and that he was not to blame for their condition.
They also ruled that there was not enough evidence to conclude that the other dogs had been caused unnecessary suffering.
After being acquitted of all charges, Mr Hartley said: “I am an animal lover and have been all my life. I have run this rescue centre for 20 years.
“I am taking the dogs in, trying my best to help them and re-home them and it just backfires on you.
“I feel as if I have been victimised. I pay for it all out of my own pocket and I work hard seven days a week to keep it going.
“I have a mixture of emotions now. I am glad it’s over and I can get back to where I should be, with the animals, instead of sitting in court. But I am sad it ever got to this.”
The dogs were seized and Mr Hartley arrested in January last year after concerns from an RSPCA vet that the animals were in poor health and suffering from a variety of conditions.
The 33 puppies included nine Yorkshire terriers, five West Highland white terriers, five King Charles cavaliers, five labradors, seven Pomeranians and two King Charles spaniels.
All the puppies had intestinal disease caused by infection or parasites and some had respiratory infections.
But Mr Hartley, who defended himself in court, said the puppies did not belong to him, and were delivered the night before the raid on one of his farm buildings which was rented by two men, Alec Paul Rogers and Michael Emme.
Rogers, 25, of Woodland View, Hyde, and Emme, 27, of Sandwich Drive, Macclesfield, admitted breaching a disqualification order banning them from keeping animals.
Mr Hartley, of Nook Lane, Tyldesley, said he did not see the dogs before the raid but had prepared for their arrival by putting out food, water and heating lamps.
Clearing him at Stockport magistrates court, chairman of the bench Paul Railton-Smith said: “In respect of the puppies, we accept these arrived the night before and Mr Hartley did everything required, therefore we find him not guilty.
“In respect of the malamute and mastiff, based on our summary of the facts we cannot be satisfied that the charges have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“Therefore we find you not guilty of all charges.”