FISH

The biggest pet adoption scam in Ireland could be stopped in one fell swoop

A pet adoption centre in Cork has been fined for “grossly mismanaging” the $20 million a year business it ran.

Key points:The Pet Centre of Ireland is one of the largest in the country after it opened its doors in September 2015The centre opened in a residential building in Banfield Pet Hospital in Co Cork on September 30The pet adoption firm has been ordered to repay the €2.6m it paid to the local authority in 2017 for an unauthorised lease of landThe centre has now been fined €1.2m for the “serious breaches”It was fined €500,000 for a “serious breach” of a statutory provision which requires pet adoption centres to repay a certain sum to the county council if they are to be deemed to be “open to the public”.

The pet centre had “gross mismanagement”, said a ruling handed down on Thursday by the Cork City Council’s licensing authority.

The €2,600 per-month fee to operate the centre in Banfields was “gross and excessive”, said the ruling, which also imposed a €1,000 fine for each “gross breach” as well as €200,000 in costs.

The ruling also said the centre had failed to comply with a “clear set of conditions” set out in a lease agreement with the local council.

The banfield pet centre in Co Galway has been hit with a €5,000 Fine over a pet adoption chargeSource: The Irish Sun/Paul Higgins/PA WireThe centre’s leasing agreement with Banfield’s Banfield Animal Hospital was signed on December 13, 2017, the day after the pet adoption business had opened in BanField’s Banfields property on Dublin’s south side.

The lease agreement, which was signed in March 2018, states that the pet centre would operate “subject to all reasonable conditions and limitations” and is “subject in the event of the vacancy of any of its premises to the general terms and conditions of the lease”.

It also states that “the owner of the premises shall be entitled to refuse to take part in the operation of the centre”.

In the lease agreement the owners also stipulate that “any person who has no interest in the premises” will not be allowed to “take part in or be associated with the operation” of the pet care business.

The pet care firm had its licence suspended on July 31, 2017 for breach of its lease, but the banfield property has since been converted into a rental property and it has continued to operate.

In July 2017, a judge said the lease terms were “gross” and that “there is no evidence to suggest that the lease would be considered to be open to the people of Banfield” and the centre’s lease was “clearly breached”.

The ruling said the pet business had failed “to comply with the terms of the licence and its lease”, while also saying that “no other premises in the area have a similar lease”.

The court ruled that “it is not necessary for the Court to prove that the Pet Care Centre of Banfields had no interest whatsoever in the properties it operated” as “there would have been no reason for it to take on such an operation”.

The local authority said it was pleased with the decision, adding that it had taken all steps to prevent the “gross waste and neglect” of local residents and had also offered the pet owners €2m to avoid any further charges.

The Pet Center of Ireland has now closed in Cork.

The Animal Hospital and Pest Management Services is one pet adoption agency in the State that has been involved in serious breaches of statutory provisions since 2017.

It opened in September of 2015, with a five-bed pet centre on Banfields Road.

The centre was “open and open to everyone”, said chief executive officer Patrick Collins in a statement to The Irish News.

It was closed for a period of six months following a complaint by local residents who were not satisfied with the service they were receiving.

The local council’s licensing authorities in January 2017 ruled that Banfield animal hospital and Pet Care Services should be classified as “open” in the public interest, and not “open for business”.

It has now shut its doors for good.