A ROGUE animal trader who was living in Weymouth has been sentenced to 28 months in prison after putting the nation's rabies-free status at risk.

Peter Graham Harman ran two fraudulent puppy-selling businesses - namely for the sale of unlawfully imported cropped and docked puppies from Serbia - making £1million, a court heard.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how the 39-year-old ran a fraudulent business between February 8, 2017 and March 23 last year.

Dorset Echo: Peter Harman who was living in Weymouth earlier this year has been sentenced to 28 months in prison after putting the nation's rabies-free status at riskPeter Harman who was living in Weymouth earlier this year has been sentenced to 28 months in prison after putting the nation's rabies-free status at risk

Harman pleaded guilty to misleading customers through false advertisement and the sale of cropped and docked Doberman and Cane Corso puppies between May 24 and June 26, 2018.

He also admitted knowingly and intently evading the provisions of rabies for 25 Doberman puppies between the dates May 25 and July 12, 2018, and unlawfully imported puppies while falsely claiming they were rabies-free to customers.

On multiple occasions Harman deliberately provided false information of the delivery location of Doberman puppies between May 1 and July 7, 2019.

Harman committed the offences while running his businesses UK Dobermans and UK Cane Corsos, which were based in Shaftesbury.

Dorset Echo: Peter Harman. Picture: Trading Standards for Dorset CouncilPeter Harman. Picture: Trading Standards for Dorset Council

Officers working with Trading Standards at Dorset Council searched Harman’s address, and found conversations on his phone with eastern European colleagues which demonstrated he understood the regulations he was breaking.

Prosecutor Malcolm Gibney said on eight occasions, Harman’s customers did not receive the puppy they had ordered and paid for, with his business being described as 'disgraceful', and that £370,000 was transferred to Harman, most of which was deposits, and an estimated sum of £600,000 was found in cash.

Mr Gibney said: "Some dogs were not the right colour, while some buyers had to pick their dog up from a random location - and it wasn't uncommon for buyers to not receive their dogs until after they were supposed to.

"He's a dishonest man."

Harman, who had been living in Verwood to help care for his dad before being sentenced, but previously lived in Portland Road, Weymouth.

Mitigating Syan Venton said Harman continued operating because he didn’t want to let his customers down and the dogs dropped off at service stations were stops on the way to the intended address.

Mr Venton told the court Harman cares for his father due to not being able to care for himself.

Judge Stephen Climie, sentencing Harman, said due to his unlawful actions the rogue puppy trader put the UK's rabies-free status at risk.

He said: "The UK was at risk of losing its rabies-free status.

"Even though the risk did not come to pass you have still put this country at risk.

"Custody will show all those involved what will happen if they put this country at risk."

Ivan Hancock, service manager for Trading Standards at Dorset Council, said: "Our Trading Standards team work with other agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

"We ensure pet animals brought into the country adhere to the strict rules in place to make sure they are fit and healthy - and do not pose a risk of introducing diseases to the UK.

"These rules include the rabies controls which were breached numerous times in this case, and over a considerable time period.

"Some countries, such as Serbia, are not classed as rabies-free and so to import animals from these countries there are strict quarantine procedures to follow and Harman has sought to avoid these.

"Having circumvented the import controls on these puppies he has then gone on to mislead buyers, as to the history and transport of these animals, all of which amounts to his guilt as operator of a fraudulent business over a three year period."

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