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Animal cruelty case was ‘hell’

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A pet shop owner has thanked the community for its “phenomenal” support in the wake of his appeal against animal welfare charges.

Robert Phipps, who owns March Pet Shop, was found guilty in February this year of three charges involving 34 dogs he kept at his dog rescue centre, JJ Rescue, at a warehouse in Commercial Road, March.

The 36-year-old was convicted of failing to provide a suitable environment and fresh drinking water to the dogs between January 6, 2014, and February 28, 2014; and causing unnecessary suffering to one dog because it was housed in such circumstances that it was able to fight through the cage bars.

Mr Phipps’ appeal against the conviction took place at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court last week.

The first two charges, relating to a suitable environment and fresh drinking water, were upheld, but the unnecessary suffering charge was found not guilty. A three-year ban on keeping dogs was also reduced to 18 months.

Mr Phipps was also ordered to pay £2,000 in court costs – £1,000 for the appearance in February and £1,000 for the appeal proceedings – and a £60 victim surcharge.

The court heard the number of dogs at the rescue centre steadily rose as Mr Phipps “could not resist a hard luck story”.

But the rehoming process was slow and the centre became “overwhelmed”.

Summing up, Recorder Ian Glen said: “We’re quite satisfied that your heart was in the right place.”

A number of community members and rescue centre volunteers attended the appeal hearing to support Mr Phipps, and many more wrote character references.

Mr Phipps said he was glad everything was now over so he could move on with his life.

He said: “I survived cancer over ten years ago, but that was nothing compared to the hell and mental anguish I’ve gone through over these last 18 months.

“The support from the community has been phenomenal and not just from volunteers and dog walkers, but from strangers who I’ve never met.”

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