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Maidstone Aquatics pet shop owner Wayne Miles denies allegations of rabbit neglect after inspection


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A devastated pet shop owner who invested £120,000 into his business has hit back after complaints about a rabbit resulted in animal inspectors arriving.

Maidstone Aquatics on Loose Road, Maidstone, was visited by the community protection team from Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), an animal licensing inspector, the RSPCA and a vet, after the council was alerted to potential “welfare concerns” regarding the rabbit.

The welfare of rabbit, Eric, has been at the centre of a heated debate relating to Maidstone Aquatics this week. Picture: Wayne Miles
The welfare of rabbit, Eric, has been at the centre of a heated debate relating to Maidstone Aquatics this week. Picture: Wayne Miles

The RSPCA has since confirmed it found no breaches of animal welfare provisions when it visited the day after the council visit.

A post on social media from Kayleigh Wilson suggested Eric and fellow bunny Brian had been living in “terrible” conditions and “cash had been offered for them” but that the offer was refused.

She said the cage they were living in was too small, with her post sparking a mixed response and in excess of 250 comments. Some users suggested stealing the rabbits.

Owner Wayne Miles says Eric did have a slight cold when the council inspection took place on Tuesday - but said this was being treated by a vet. He says the rabbits were never for sale.

Mr Miles - who is taking legal advice - says the bunnies now live at his house.

Since the allegations were made on Monday, he says he has barely slept.

“I’m close to tears. If you had invested £120,000 into your dream shop, how would you feel? " he said, adding: “I’m at my wit’s end. You cannot believe what these people have been writing about us - and they don’t even know me.

“I support all the local schools. I support the local hockey team. I have just put another £500 into them to buy new shirts for the new season.

Maidstone Aquatics is based on Loose Road. Picture: KM
Maidstone Aquatics is based on Loose Road. Picture: KM

“All these people are trying to do is ruin me overnight… And 99% of these people have never been in my shop.

“I’m at the brink of breaking down. I have invested a lot of money.

“Why would I want to ill-treat an animal?”

An RSPCA spokesman said: “One of our officers visited the pet shop on Wednesday and, at the time of our visit, there were no breaches of the Animal Welfare Act found or any further concerns found.”

KentOnline visited the pet shop yesterday. More than 100 fish tanks – including koi, angelfish, shrimps and Harlequins – were in the store alongside canaries, tortoises and guinea pigs.

Two parrots live in cages at the front of the store, however one of these was playing outside the cage.

Complaints have also been made about how the birds are being treated.

But Mr Miles, who took over in October from friend Mark Smith, explained: “We have rescued two parrots. One is fully feathered, one isn’t.

“She plucks because, when her old owner had her, she was left in a cage all day long, and she got bored.

“We rescued them and they live in the shop.

Complaints have also been made about how the parrots are treated at the shop. Stock photo by Getty Images / iStockphoto
Complaints have also been made about how the parrots are treated at the shop. Stock photo by Getty Images / iStockphoto

“Someone even wrote about how disgusting the treatment of our parrots was.”

Mr Miles concedes that the allegations have had an impact on business.

He said: “I normally take between £800 and £1,200 a day in this shop. On Tuesday, I took £300.

“I took £600 on Wednesday and £600 yesterday. So there has been a vast impact.”

The council, though, say it has a duty to act when complaints are raised.

Mark Smith, pictured, sold the store to current owner Wayne Miles last year
Mark Smith, pictured, sold the store to current owner Wayne Miles last year

Community protection manager, Martyn Jeynes, said: “In this instance, we acted as quickly as possible.

“We will always try and work with traders to encourage best practice, and will let them know about the legal standards that are required when anyone is selling animals.”

Discussions between Mr Miles and MBC continue regarding licensing issues.

Kent Police said it is aware of the situation.

Ms Wilson has been approached for further comment.

If anyone has any concerns about animal welfare in animal establishments in Maidstone, they should contact the community protection team at MBC by emailing communityprotection@maidstone.gov.uk

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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