Suspended prison term for seller of diseased dogs

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A backyard dog breeder, who sold puppies with a deadly virus despite court orders restraining her from doing so, has today been sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months by the Supreme Court, and ordered to pay the State $15,666 in costs.

Fay Marie Armstrong of Spearwood was last month (16 January 2015) found guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court, by disobeying orders made in 2011 and 2012 that prohibited her from selling unvaccinated, diseased animals.

In late 2012 Fay Armstrong advertised puppies for sale in The Quokka, arranged to meet the purchasers in a public park, and used only her middle name ‘Marie’. A Labrador she sold for $450 became ill three days later and had to be put down because the owners couldn’t afford vet treatment costing between $3,000 and $4,000 to treat parvovirus.

In handing down a suspended prison term, Justice Beech said: “The appropriate punishment for contempt must take account of the need to personally deter Ms Armstrong from continuing with such conduct. Ms Armstrong has previously breached undertakings given to the plaintiff, and concealed her identity in the course of doing so.”

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll welcomes the penalty handed down today and hopes it sends a strong message to backyard breeders.

“This is among the worst kinds of consumer deception because a pet quickly becomes a family member to which you are emotionally attached, and no amount of monetary compensation can replace that much-loved animal if you have to make the harrowing decision to put it down.

“Selling dogs or any animals with undisclosed diseases or defects requiring expensive veterinary treatment may contravene the Australian Consumer Law, and will be dealt with by Consumer Protection in Western Australia.”

The Commissioner added that Ms Armstrong had been given plenty of opportunities to do the right thing over the last few years but continued to flout the law.

“Our previous legal action had seen Ms Armstrong agree to only sell animals that were vaccinated, vet checked with a written report, and free from a number of well-known potentially fatal and contagious illnesses including parvovirus, hepatitis and distemper.

“Ms Armstrong had also been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in compensation to pet buyers who had been forced to spend a lot of money on vet bills or have dogs put down. Additionally she was convicted of animal cruelty charges and fined $34,000.”

Consumer Protection strongly recommends that consumers who are buying pets deal with reputable breeders and have the animal health-checked by a vet prior to purchase. ‘A consumer’s guide to buying a pet’ is available on the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection or a hard copy of the publication can be obtained by calling 1300 30 40 54 or emailing: consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au

Background:

In July 2011 Fay Armstrong settled Consumer Protection action in the Supreme Court by undertaking not to sell diseased animals, or any animal which has not been vet-checked and vaccinated. It was the first injunction action of its kind in Australia. Full media release at: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/landmark-action-against-back...

Court enforceable undertaking can be viewed at: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fayarmstro...

In August 2012 Fay Armstrong was ordered by the Supreme Court to stop selling diseased animals and to pay more than $3,000 in compensation to consumers. Media release: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/backyard-dog-breeder-ordered...

In November 2012 Fay Armstrong was permanently banned from keeping more than one dog and fined a total of $34,000 after being convicted of 17 animal cruelty charges brought by Consumer Protection in the Perth Magistrates Court. Media release at: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/backyard-dog-dealer-banned-a...

Media Contact (Consumer Protection)

 

Consumer Protection
Media release
06 Feb 2015

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