The identity of the man behind one of the UK’s most controversial dog breeding programmes is revealed in a new BBC documentary.
He is Gary Hemming, an Edinburgh man 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 programme “simply unacceptable”, “intentionally harmful” and “against the law”.
Hemming is part of a world of extreme breeders who specialise in dogs such as American bullies and English bulldogs.
The French bulldog is the second most popular breed in the UK but Hemming’s dogs are being bred to extremes.
Dogs with the most marketable characteristics have become one of the biggest criminal commodities being traded and sold on a scale never seen before.
In February last year, there was outrage from animal rights groups at 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 with convictions for robbery, domestic assault, and grievous bodily harm.
He has a breeding arrangement with the wife of an organised crime figure in prison for drugs.
Hemming deals in dogs across the UK but his big money market is abroad.
BBC Scotland’s Sam Poling spent months infiltrating the massive UK network of extreme breeders and dog dealers.
As part of her undercover investigation, she began looking into Hemming’s activities.
She contacted him posing as a representative of a wealthy overseas investor interested in his breeding line.
He told her: “There’s not a hairless breeder in the world that can achieve or can deliver what I’ve got. It’s only going to get better.”
The following week Poling met Hemming at an upmarket hotel just outside Edinburgh.
He claimed he had a licence for more than 100 breeding dogs but Edinburgh City Council has no record of him being licensed to breed dogs.
Hemming said: “You’ve got to understand the valuation of what the dog can produce. Outright, I’ve sold females, obviously, in the margin of between 100 and 250 (thousand pounds).”
“And then on males, I only co-own them, I don’t sell them.”
Hemming says his ultimate goal is the “unicorn dog” – the rarest dog in the world.
His extreme dog breeding programme seeks to combine every marketable characteristic in just one dog.
“Every bit of DNA in a dog, in one dog, as in colours and patterns,” he says. “Like, pink comes from other breeds. Chocolate comes from other breeds, merle comes from other breeds. You can turn them pink.”
Outside the hotel, he shows Poling one of his most extreme dogs – Checkmate.
The four-month-old dog is the rarest dog he has managed to produce so far. He claims the dog is worth more than a million pounds and turns up with a security team made up of his associates.
He also shows the BBC reporter another pup that is the result of his experiments – a hairless French Bulldog called Gamer which, despite looking completely bald, did have some hair.
Hemming has managed to breed a “merle” pattern into him, which animal experts say is a genetic defect that is linked to blindness and deafness in dogs.
Disclosure asked for the opinion of veterinary surgeon Jane Ladlow of Cambridge University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine.
She is one of the country’s leading experts in brachycephalic breeds. These are dogs which have 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, okay? So they’re obviously cross breeds, but I don’t know the health of these dogs. And it worries me that people are breeding these combinations purely to make puppies that are more expensive. So it’s all about money.
“These are people that are trying to make their dogs look different so that they can have a premium on the price. It’s unusual to find people that are health conscious breeders breeding these kind of dogs.’
Asked whether a line had been crossed into animal cruelty, she said that was the case with some of the animals she had seen.
She added: “The public has the choice, choose healthy, well-bred dogs or choose this kind of exaggerated mutant. I wouldn’t buy any of these dogs. I feel really sorry for them.”
The British Veterinary Association, together with the Scottish SPCA and leading animal welfare experts are calling for greater regulation of the breeding industry and say the legislation needs to be strengthened to protect the dogs.
Without this, they say, organised crime and unscrupulous breeders will continue to flourish.
The BBC Disclosure programme also goes undercover at the American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC) UK show, with Poling witnessing a parade of extremely bred dogs with illegally cropped ears.
She manages to capture on camera two 10-week-old pups with freshly cropped ears at the home of Aaron Lee, one of the ABKC judges.
This is a practice the RSPCA calls “appalling”.
The ABKC in the UK is run by convicted heroin trafficker William Byrne, from Wemyss Bay, and Sean Main, from Glasgow, who was cleared of running a £6m drugs racket. Heroin was found in 160 boxes of dog food delivered to his wife’s grooming parlour. A jury found the charges against him not proven.
As part of her investigation into the dog trade, Poling exposes one of the UK’s most well-known dog dealers Thomas Rayment.
He was jailed in 2021 for running a county lines drugs gang in the north of England.
She infiltrates their breeding network and discovers lucrative deals are being done by him from prison. His business partner, Ryan Howard, confirms to Poling that Rayment is in prison but is the one who has been negotiating the deals with her.
Disclosure: The Dog Dealers, Monday 23 January, BBC One Scotland, 8.00 – 9.00pm