Twenty puppies die after 44 crammed into hot van – and half had coronavirus

A man caused the deaths of 20 puppies after cramming 44 into the back of a van and driving up the M5 on a hot summer's day.

Patrick Stokes, 25, was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work after being stopped on the motorway by police last August.

A concerned member of the public witnessed Stokes, of West Rainton, Durham, moving the animals from one vehicle to a smaller van, reports Gloucestershire Live.

Police found the 44 puppies malnourished and dehydrated in 4ft by 3ft crates, along with two adult dogs after he set off from Gloucestershire towards Stoke-on-Trent.

All of the dogs – ten Beagles, seven Border Collies, three Chihuahuas and one Shih Tzu along with numerous other cross breads – needed immediate emergency veterinary care.

Twenty of the animals were later found to have the canine version of coronavirus, Cheltenham Magistrates' Court heard.

Stokes pleaded guilty to not ensuring the needs of 44 puppies in his care and causing the deaths of 20 them while travelling between Beeches Road, Charlton Kings, and Junction one of the M5 on August 22, 2020.

Magistrate Sue Alexander told Stokes it was “only a matter of chance” that he was spotted by a member of the public.

“Having put 15 puppies in each crate that was definite overcrowding and it no doubt resulted in the unnecessary suffering for the puppies which all needed veterinary care to deal with their dehydration.

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“Because of these factors we assess this as being far too serious for a conditional discharge. And having been convicted of this you are being banned from owning, keeping or transporting of dogs for two years.”

The magistrates sentenced Stokes to a 12-month community order and ordered him to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £95.

Graham Dono, prosecuting, said Gloucestershire Constabulary was called by a furious member of the public on August 22.

Mr Dono said: “The woman heard loud whimpering noises coming from the two vans and the two men were going between them.

“She was concerned by what she was witnessing and challenged them. She told them she was taking photographs and would be reporting it to the police.

“Stokes told the woman he was transferring them from one van to the other as it was ‘too hot for them’ but she thought this was strange as the second van was smaller and was not ventilated.

“She counted that there were over 20 puppies in the larger vehicle but was unable to calculate how many had been transferred to the small van.

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“The police alerted all forces around the country and within an hour Stokes had been stopped on the M6.

“When Stokes was arrested he was asked when the puppies had last been fed and watered. Stokes responded that it was when they had arrived from Ireland.”

Michael Levy, mitigating, said Stokes did not know the dogs were in a distressed state.

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