The identity of the man behind one of Britain’s most controversial dog breeding schemes is revealed in a new BBC documentary.
This is Gary Hemming, a man from Edinburgh with multiple convictions for violence spanning 20 years.
Hemming uses the name Gari Ferrari to breed hairless French Bulldogs.
Animal welfare experts have called his breeding program “simply unacceptable”, “deliberately harmful” and “illegal”.
Hemming is part of a world of extreme breeders who specialize in dogs such as American Bulldogs and English Bulldogs.
The French Bulldog is the second most popular breed in the UK, but Hemming dogs are bred to the extreme.
Dogs with the most tradable characteristics have become one of the largest criminal commodities traded and sold on an unprecedented scale.
Last February, animal rights organizations were outraged by reports that breeders in Scotland had announced the first litter of hairless French bulldogs in the UK.
BBC Disclosure has discovered that the man behind the dogs is Hemming, a violent thug convicted of robbery, domestic assault and grievous bodily harm.
He has a breeding arrangement with the wife of an organized crime figure in prison for drugs.
Hemming trades dogs all over the UK, but his big money market is overseas.
Sam Poling of BBC Scotland has spent months infiltrating Britain’s vast network of extreme dog breeders and dealers.
As part of her undercover investigation, she began investigating Hemming’s activities.
She contacted him, pretending to be a representative of a wealthy foreign investor interested in his breeding line.
He told her, “There is no hairless breeder in the world who can achieve or deliver what I have. It will only get better.”
The following week, Poling met Hemming at an exclusive hotel on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
He claimed to be licensed to breed over 100 dogs, but Edinburgh City Council has no record of him being licensed to breed dogs.
Hemming said: “You have to understand the valuation of what a dog can produce. To be honest, I was selling females, of course, on the margin between 100 and 250 (thousands of pounds).
“As for the males, I only co-own them, I don’t sell them.”
Hemming says his ultimate goal is a “unicorn dog” – the world’s rarest dog.
His extreme dog breeding program aims to combine all commercial traits in one dog.
“Every bit of DNA in a dog, in one dog, like in colors and patterns,” he says. “Pink, for example, comes from other races. Chocolate comes from other breeds, merle comes from other breeds. You can change their color to pink.”
In front of the hotel, he shows Poling one of his most extreme dogs – checkmate.
The four-month-old dog is the rarest dog he has ever bred. He claims the dog is worth over a million pounds and shows up with a security team of his associates.
He also shows the BBC reporter another puppy that is the result of his experiments – a hairless French bulldog named Gamer who, despite appearing completely bald, had some fur.
Hemming managed to breed the “merle” pattern in it, which animal experts say is a genetic defect linked to blindness and deafness in dogs.
The disclosure sought the opinion of veterinarian surgeon Jane Ladlow from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine.
He is one of the country’s leading experts on brachycephalic breeds. They are dogs with short skulls and flat faces – like French and English bulldogs.
Looking at the dogs Hemmings showed us, Ms Ladlow said: “They’re not French Bulldogs, all right? So they’re obviously crossbreeds, but I don’t know the health status of these dogs. And it worries me that people are reproducing. these combinations only to make puppies more expensive. It’s all about money.
“These are people who try to make their dogs look different to get a higher price. It’s amazing to find people who are health conscious breeders breeding these kinds of dogs.”
When asked if the line of animal cruelty had been crossed, she said that was the case with some of the animals she had seen.
She added: “Society has a choice, go for healthy, well behaved dogs or go for this kind of overkill mutant. I wouldn’t buy either of these dogs. I really feel sorry for them.”
The British Veterinary Association, along with the Scottish SPCA and leading animal welfare experts, are calling for more regulation of the livestock industry and say regulations need to be strengthened to protect dogs.
They say that without it, organized crime and unscrupulous breeders will continue to thrive.
The BBC Disclosure program is also secret at the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC) show in the UK, where Poling witnesses a parade of uniquely bred dogs with illegally cropped ears.
She manages to capture on camera two 10-week-old puppies with freshly cropped ears at the home of Aaron Lee, one of the ABKC judges.
It is a practice that the RSPCA calls “appalling”.
UK ABKC is run by convicted heroin dealer William Byrne of Wemyss Bay and Sean Main of Glasgow who was cleared of running a £6m drug ring. Heroin was found in 160 boxes of dog food delivered to his wife’s hair salon. The jury found the charges against him unproven.
As part of its dog trafficking investigation, Poling exposes one of Britain’s most notorious dog dealers, Thomas Rayment.
In 2021, he was jailed for running a drug gang in a county in the north of England.
He infiltrates their breeding network and discovers that he holds lucrative deals from prison. His business partner, Ryan Howard, confirms to Poling that Rayment is in prison, but he is the one negotiating deals with her.
Disclosure: Dog Dealers, Monday 23 January, BBC One Scotland, 8am-9pm