A dog walker accused of losing several pets in her care is set to be prosecuted for a string of animal welfare offences, it has emerged.
Louise Lawford, 49, had been walking the dogs in Hopwas Woods, near Tamworth, Stafforshire, on June 23, last year when she claimed they went missing.
When the businesswoman came back to the three owners empty-handed, she said the dogs had bolted off after being spooked by a gunshot nearby.
The dogs soon became known as the ‘Tamworth Five’ and hundreds joined searches to find Pablo, Maggie, Charlie, Ralph and Jack.
But they were never found and owners became suspicious after they claim Lawford stopped answering their calls and disappeared.
Two owners have since said their pets had died and believe that they know the circumstances around their deaths.
Owners were left heartbroken and described it as their ‘worst nightmare’, saying they ‘always hoped they would come home’.
Police launched a search for the dog walker but following an investigation there was insufficient evidence to charge the businesswoman, of Erdington, Birmingham, with theft.
However, it has emerged that Lawford has been accused by Birmingham City Council of nine animal welfare offences.
Lawford, who ran Pawford Paws in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, will appear before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on January 23.
The city council also confirmed Lawford had her dog boarding licence revoked on June 28.
She is accused of five counts of undertaking group walks without ensuring each dog had been vaccinated, allowing dogs off the lead without written consent, and failing to contact the owners or dog warden immediately when dogs were lost.
The business owner also faces three counts of breaching conditions of the licence to operate a business providing home boarding for dogs, and a charge of failing to provide veterinary treatment for a skin infection for a dog.
Owners of the missing dogs are also planning to take civil action against Lawford following the outcome of the court case.
Becky Parsons, 40, of Erdington, was crushed after the loss of Pablo the pug and Maggie the Jack Russell, which followed a series of family bereavements.
She had left them in the care of Lawford while she was on holiday and said after learning of the death of her two ‘best friends’ that her ‘heart is broken’.
Becky said at the time: ‘I lost my dad, nan, granddad and partner in a short space of time and the dogs were my comfort.
‘They were my companions that kept me going, they gave me a purpose to carry and now that’s been taken away.’
Speaking of the new information, she said: ‘We have a lot of our own evidence of what happened to the dogs and how they died.
‘We are taking our own civil action as well. We are glad we got this far.
‘We know what happened to the dogs but we can’t discuss it at this point because of the legal action.’
Another owner April Lock, 28, who left dogs Charlie and Ralph in Louise’s care while she went to Spain, said she never believed the dogs ran off.
April, of Streetly, West Midlands, said: ‘We want justice for the dogs.
‘It is absolutely heartbreaking to lose a pet and the manner in which this has happened has devastated all of us.
‘We always had that hope that they would come home. We still had that tiny bit of hope that they were out there.
‘Our babies didn’t deserve this. They were just innocent little dogs.’
A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: ‘We received allegations of theft relating to missing dogs left in the care of a dog sitter.
‘In response to these allegations WMP completed a multi-agency search warrant with an animal health and welfare officer and conducted a subsequent thorough investigation.
‘At present there is insufficient evidence for WMP to consider charges for the offences alleged.’