Sunderland man spared jail over 'harebrained' £10,000 pedigree bulldogs plot

A British bulldog puppy
A British bulldog puppy
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A dog-sitter staged a fake raid at his home and claimed five pedigree puppies had been stolen after he got tired of looking after them.

Jason Smith, 26, was being paid £100 per week by a breeder to take care of the baby British bulldogs, who were born in June 2014, until they were old enough to be sold.

Newcastle Crown Court heard by September that year Smith had become "disgruntled" at the time it was taking for the pets to be re-homed, so claimed they had been stolen in a break-in.

The raid was exposed as fake when investigators checked the CCTV at the address in Walker, Newcastle, where he was living with the dogs, who were worth up to £2,000 each.

Prosecutor Paul Currer told the court: "On September 15 he was seen to leave the block of flats and when he did he chocked the door open, allowed access to the building by other people.

"A few minutes later, two males were seen to enter the building for a short time. The same two males were then seen leaving, now carrying five puppies between them and a large bag of dog food."

The court heard that despite the camera footage, Smith continued to deny any wrongdoing.

When police identified one of the men from the CCTV as Patrick Quinnin, 36, and went to his Sunderland home, they found two of the puppies being kept there.

One puppy had been sold on and two of the dogs have never been found.

The court heard when police found text messages between the men, planning for the dogs to be taken, the truth started to unravel.

Mr Currer added: "Smith admitted there had been an arrangement for the dogs to be removed from the flat."

Smith, now of Vern Road, North Shields, admitted theft.

Quinnin, of Athol Road, Sunderland, admitted handling stolen goods on the basis he did not know there was anything illegal going on until after he had taken the dogs to his home.

The third man has yet to be dealt with.

Mr Recorder Simon Batiste sentenced Smith to 10 months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a four-month curfew from 9pm to 7am.

The judge told him: "I am told you had to look after the dogs for longer than you intended.

"You could have returned the puppies, but you took a different approach - you decided to cook up a scheme to suggest you had been burgled.

"You suggested the puppies had been stolen from you."

Tony Hawks, defending Smith, said: "He fell out with the breeder because, he would say, he wasn't being paid, and also the arrangement had been on a short-term basis.

"Anyone who has had a number of puppies in a confined space would realise life was becoming increasingly difficult.

"He hit on this harebrained scheme, which blew up in his face, and ultimately pleaded guilty."

Quinnin was sentenced to a community order with 12 months' supervision and 150 hours' unpaid work.

The judge told him: "You must have known from a fairly early stage what was going on. You played your part in looking after the puppies."

Tom Finch, defending Quinnin, said the dad-of-two "went along" with the scheme and made nothing from it.