Two men who sold aquatic animals online have been prosecuted for cruelty at Dartford Magistrates Court after they failed to protect and package them correctly.
Mustafas Bodour (24) formerly of Bean Road, Greenhithe, Kent pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to terrapins and axolotls by couriering them in unsuitable containers with insufficient labelling.
At the same time 28-year-old Mark Freed, of Salem Place in Northfleet, Kent pleaded guilty to the same charge as well as an additional charge of not taking reasonable steps to ensure the wellbeing of Siamese fighting fish that were found in his flat in small plastic bags.
The pair ran their business from a flat using two websites: 'thereptileshop.co.uk' and 'thetropicalfishshop.co.uk' to import and sell animals including tortoises, terrapins, axolotls and fish.
The cruelty was uncovered when couriers became concerned at packages that had disintegrated due to leaking water and discovered live animals inside. They then contacted the RSPCA as they had been unaware of what they were delivering due to poor labelling.
Andrew Wiles, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA told the court that RSPCA investigators then intercepted a package containing two terrapins. They were in a plastic bag, wrapped in newspaper and some bubble wrap with some warming pads that were slightly warm and a plastic pack that was cold, but apart from a label saying 'fragile' there was no information that it contained live animals.
The pair were arrested in March and a subsequent search of their flat discovered the Siamese fighters kept in small bags. The prosecution said none of the animals had died as a result of being in packages – but they would have suffered.
Bodour, who is currently living and working in Holland was sentenced to a three-year conditional discharge and banned from owning aquatic animals for 10 years. He was also ordered to pay £3,130 in costs.
Freed will be sentenced on Tuesday, April 24 with Chairman of the bench Michael O'Brien telling him he would not rule out a custodial sentence.
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.