Breeder behind ‘dirty’ Christchurch puppy mill wants her 21 seized spoodles back

The defiant owner of 21 designer dogs seized from her Christchurch home for welfare reasons has blamed the filth on the disease – and wants the spoodles back.

Breeder Rebecca MacPherson says she lives for her dogs, cooking them meat and sharing her bed with 10 of them, but admits she ended up with too many dogs when she struggled for sale puppies.

A couple who bought a spoodle from MacPherson said they had to pick their pup through the steel bars on their doorstep – then discovered they had health issues when they took him to the vet .

Another person who tried to get a puppy from MacPherson said she shouldn’t raise dogs. And yet another couple who turned two puppies over to the SPCA after they and around 11 other dogs escaped MacPherson’s property last month described them as malnourished and dirty.

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Dogs New Zealand says the case highlights loopholes in New Zealand dog breeding regulations.

On Wednesday, twenty-one spoodles (a cocker spaniel and a poodle mix) were seized in what the SPCA called a “serious” and “unsafe” environment on MacPherson’s Roydvale Ave property in Burnside. Firefighters, initially equipped with breathing apparatus, police and animal management were involved, taking all of the dogs on the property and several birds.

MacPherson, who also appears to be Rebecca Anderson, previously ran Beccijanes Cattery in Wairakei Rd, where two cat owners returned from their Christmas vacation in 2016 to find they had lost their cats.

She advertises three online businesses: Rebecca’s Spoodles, Happy Tails dog grooming and Westside Curtains.

Rebecca MacPherson says she loves her dogs and wants them back.

Things

Rebecca MacPherson says she loves her dogs and wants them back.

Rebecca’s Spoodles advertises the puppies online for sale between $1450 and $2000.

speaking to Things MacPherson disputed claims that the dogs were malnourished and dangerous.

“It was just a little dirty because I had Covid and the flu at the same time and I could do everything except clean the floor, that’s the only thing. But I cleaned everything today [Thursday].”

She said she cooks chicken for the dogs every day, gives them 10kg of minced meat a week and they have milk and water.

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Of the 21 dogs, 10 slept in her bed with her. The others slept around his bed on the floor.

Rebecca Macpherson, pictured here in 2002.

David Alexander / Stuff

Rebecca Macpherson, pictured here in 2002.

“It’s their choice, it’s what they want to do.”

She often had about five sitting on her lap while she watched television. She took the dogs for walks with her around the city. Last month, firefighters were called when she accidentally locked the car with eight dogs inside.

“They are just part of me. They go everywhere I go…they love me to death,” she said.

The dogs included five about five months old and five about eight weeks old. Eight of the dogs were registered breeding dogs, she said.

She admitted she had too many dogs, but said she was unable to sell them.

“I was desperate to sell them and put them up for $500, but got no inquiries,” she said. “Something happened to the market.”

MacPherson said she was “absolutely numb” and believed authorities had “no right to seize” the dogs and wanted them back.

“I do everything for my dogs. I live for them.

MacPherson’s son, Rodney MacPherson, said when he recently checked on her that she was “not doing well” and he talked to her about moving in with the dogs.

A Christchurch couple bought Ava, a spoodle, from Rebecca MacPherson last year.  A veterinarian found that he had health problems.

Provided

A Christchurch couple bought Ava, a spoodle, from Rebecca MacPherson last year. A veterinarian found that he had health problems.

“She accepted, then she changed her mind at the last minute.”

He said the smell of urine was “awful” and he couldn’t get into the house. However, he said his mother had no sense of smell and was oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. A blocked sewer drain in the driveway contributed to that, he said.

Among those who bought dogs from MacPherson are Christchurch couple Olivia and Tyrone, who did not want their surnames published.

The couple, who were looking for a golden spoodle, visited her home last year. Upon arrival, they said they had been told they could not enter the property and had to pick their dog through the bars of its steel fence.

“We thought it was odd, but the dogs at the time all seemed fine, there was nothing odd,” Tyrone said.

Happy Tails Dog Grooming on Roydvale Avenue in Burnside, where 21 spoodle puppies and birds were seized due to animal welfare concerns.

KAI SCHWOERER/Stuff

Happy Tails Dog Grooming on Roydvale Avenue in Burnside, where 21 spoodle puppies and birds were seized due to animal welfare concerns.

However, when they took their new dog, Ava, to the vet for her vaccination, the vet discovered a hernia. There was also a tooth that wasn’t growing well and a heart murmur that worried me. The vet suggested they let MacPherson know.

Macpherson replied “your vet is ripping you off” and said it was “totally lame”. MacPherson said she has never had a problem in nine years. In another text, she asked the couple to return the dog with no refund.

The couple kept Ava, whom they “love to bits”, but found the interactions with MacPherson “weird”.

Casey Robinson also had a disturbing interaction with MacPherson when she wanted to buy him two puppies about two years ago. She said they backed out and lost their $50 deposit after MacPherson repeatedly changed the pickup date, then said she had no puppies available and didn’t know which puppies came from which litter.

“He’s not someone who should be breeding dogs,” Robinson said. “That’s not how you run a dog breeding business.”

Bridget and her partner Hayden took two puppies to the SPCA when they escaped on July 17.

Provided

Bridget and her partner Hayden took two puppies to the SPCA when they escaped on July 17.

About four weeks ago, Bridget and Hayden, who did not want to use their last name, were walking on Roydvale Ave when they saw about 13 puppies running down the road.

The couple, who lived nearby, joined others to get the puppies to safety.

“We managed to get one. He was getting wet, he was super terrified,” Bridget said.

They described the puppies as “malnourished, absolutely filthy and putrid”.

They managed to flag down a passing police car.

The couple said that when police arrested a woman came out of the property and ‘hollered at them’.

One of the puppies that escaped from the property and was taken to the SPCA.

Provided

One of the puppies that escaped from the property and was taken to the SPCA.

She yelled to “give him back f…dogs, they’re my f…dogs,” Hayden said.

“We both looked at each other, and we were like we couldn’t physically bring these dogs back if that’s where they came from,” Bridget said.

They took the two puppies they caught to the SPCA.

Another couple waited with the police officer while they tried to reach the council, but after 40 minutes of waiting, they took a puppy which they picked up at the SPCA.

Dogs New Zealand is the national organization for credible dog breeders. MacPherson is not supposed to be a member.

Manager Steven Thompson said a problem with regulating breeders in New Zealand was a loophole in dog breeding legislation in particular.

The Animal Welfare Act allowed for the assessment of animal treatment generally, but not necessarily in a farm environment, where breeders should have rules specifically enforced, Thompson said.

“We would like to be involved in this conversation with the SPCA to protect the welfare of the dogs, but also not to make the law too harsh for all these breeders to go underground.”

SPCA National Inspection Director Alan Wilson said an investigation is ongoing and would not comment further.

Christchurch City Council said it had investigated complaints about the Roydvale Ave property in 2020 and 2021 but found no resource consent was required at the time.

A person at the scene on Wednesday said the property was “beyond filthy” with a putrid stench detected from the road.

Additional reporting by Charlie Gates

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