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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 77829
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I've had' what I believe tobe' a defamation of character

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I've had ' what I believe tobe' a defamation of character review on my business Facebook page. However the person has set up a bogus Facebook account to post it from. Can I do anything about it?
JA: Cases to do with defamation depend on many factors. Can you provide me with more details about the situation? How long has this been going on?
Customer: I can send a copy of the review. I run a pet suppliesshop and a small animal rescue and rehoming centre. The person is accusing me of being unqualified and cruel. But I have my qualifications and over 40 years experience. I would never be cruel to an animal. I look after them all as if they were my own.
JA: Where are you located? Laws regarding defamation vary by location.
Customer: Louth Lincolnshire
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I dont think so except that the review has upset me hugely and I'm worried it will have a detrimental effect on my business. Also does this service cost anything? I don't want to land myself with a big bill.
Hello, I’m Ben, a solicitor, and it’s my pleasure to assist you. I may ask for some preliminary information to help me determine the legal position.
Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Thankyou

I understand you have been left a negative review on your Facebook business page. Please copy and paste the entire comment in this chat. Thank you

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Can't really afford that at the moment

Oh no problem at all and I understand. Phone calls are an additional service, which is entirely optional. I am still here to deal with your original query in writing over this chat.

I understand you have been left a negative review on your Facebook business page. Please copy and paste the entire comment in this chat. Thank you

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
https://www.facebook.com/100077435913755/posts/1**********6/

I have received a link to the page. Please copy and paste it on here instead, or you may take a picture of it and upload it here. Thank you

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
I have visited this pet store several times over the past few weeks as I have been very concerned with the state of how the animals are kept.
The owner of the shop has an incredibly small hard tiled floor surface which she puts makeshift cages around the edge to house animals she is selling.The space the animals have is beyond cruel, she has several rabbits, all that have the space of a cat litter tray to sit on, some have a tiny amount of filthy urine and faeces soaked straw and sawdust to sit on, I say sit on as some of the rabbits do not even have the space to lay down as the surface area is so small.What is concerning is the lack of food and hay the rabbits and guinea pigs have, on 6 visits they have not once had any access to anything. It is essential for Guinea pigs and rabbits to have access to fresh Timothy hay, they had not had access to ANY food on any of my visits, no fresh food, no pellets and no hay.I did approach the owner of the store on my last visit before reporting her as she had caged on the floor of her shop a lurcher dog, 2 guinea pigs 3 large rabbits and a cat litter tray of about 6 baby rabbits, which were in and out of small gaps in the cages, an accident waiting to happen, and one of the rabbits was on a tiled hard surface area so small is was only able to stand, no bedding, no access to water or food and she said it was because it had to be separated from the female rabbit or they would have more babies.I asked the owner if they were always kept like this and she said its fine as they would be sold within a few weeks, disturbingly the guinea pigs were not even for sale they were owned by her and they have been living a life of living in a tiny cage with no Timothy hay no pellets no fresh food and no space to walk let alone run, and even if the ones that were being sold did get to go within a few weeks, it is still too long to be housed not being able to walk or lay down.The owner tried to tell me she ‘rescues’ unwanted pets and then sells them on, however she had no knowledge of the basic needs of the animals she was selling, nor does she quarantine the animals she takes in away from the other animals.I explained to her that guinea pigs and rabbits need constant access to Timothy hay to eat, guinea pigs actually shouldn't go over 8 hours without food. They won't starve in this time, but they can develop potentially fatal GI stasis or other health issues She did not seem to even know the difference between Hay and Straw. Straw is something that can be used in bedding it is not food or nutrition for rabbits and guinea pigs and neither is cheap bagged alfalfa or meadow hay( it is very high in calcium and will lead your guinea pigs to bladder stones which can be fatal, not that they had access to either.The use of sawdust with guinea pigs and rabbits is also WRONG. Sawdust is often marketed for smaller rodents such as mice and hamsters but, dust can cause irritation and infection in a guinea pigs and rabbits lungs.It is very worrying that people that may have no knowledge of keeping small pets will be misinformed and be misled into thinking that keeping a rabbit or guinea pig in a tiny cage or not feeding it the correct foods is ok because they get their information from a cruel uneducated business owner.I have reported this shop and will continue to see how the animals are treated here, I would encourage any other people who are concerned for the welfare of these animals in this shop to also visit the place regularly and raise your concerns with the owner and help her to understand the basic needs of the animals.

Thank you. Please point any particular part/s that are not factual

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
All of it is untrue. The flooring is cushioned lino ( not hard tiles)
I dont sell animals for a profit , I rescue and rehome . I just ask for a rehoming fee towards the upkeep of the animals whilst they are in my care.
The cages are proper cages apart from 1 which I've had to use because the adult rabbits are a bonded pair, the female had babies so I had no option but to split them up and needed a small cage to put inside the big pen so that they can still see and groom each other. I can send pictures if you want. The lady says that they did not have any food that was because it was relatively early in the morning and I was just about to start cleaning all the animals out . I dont feed them until after they've been cleaned out otherwise I would be throwing out fresh food. All the animals get appropriate bedding and food for the requirements of each species. The rabbits are not large rabbits as the lady suggests, they are Mini Lops ( which is a small breed) I have qualified in advance animal care and have over 40 years of experience in caring for and working with animals in various jobs and in keeping my own pets.
Basically everything she has accused me of is untrue and I find her post both very upsettingand insulting . Also should this review be read by many , it could have a massive detrimental effect on mybusiness. Which has struggled through the pandemic and is just starting to pick up. To say the animals do not have room to lie down fully and stand up in is totally untrue. The only thing about the small cage inside the big pen is that it is not quite big enough for the male mini lop to do 3 full hops in a straight line in. I openly hold my hand up to that but he is regularly let out for a run in a bigger pen. ( it was the only cage I could fit inside the pen leaving adequate space for Mum and her 6 babies.

Have you tried to speak to the person responsible directly at all? Perhaps when they have revisited your store

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
All of the rabbits are reserved and will be leaving to go to their new homes in 2 weeks . Where the lady get her information that she spoutsI don't know . But woodshavings and hay is fine for guineapigs. You shouldnt use straw( they can get straw eye) and of course I know the difference between straw and hay ( I'm not stupid). All the bedding I use whatever type is topquality and dust extracted. I tried to speak to the lady on Monday when she confronted me. She barely gave me the chance to say anything , Coughton me offguard to be honest and I don't cope well with confrontation. I assured her that all the animals ard extremely well looked after but she said ' I don't think so' I said I begged to differ and then she walked out saying ' well we'll see won't we.' I was left feeling very upset. I discovered her review at 2 am this morning and have had very little sleep and been very upset since then. My animals are my life I would never illtreat them or be cruel. I can't abide people who are like that.

OK I understand and thank you for providing this information. Please do not worry and leave it with me for now. I will get back to you with my full reply on here; usually the same day. The system will notify you when this happens. Many thanks.

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Thankyou. I'm happy to send photos if they will help.

No that won't be necessary for now. Please leave it with me and I will get back to you at the earliest opportunity. Many thanks

Many thanks for your patience, it is appreciated. I am now pleased to be able to provide further assistance with your query. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues brought up by this. It must be a frustrating situation to be going through.

Whilst this may appear to be a potential case of defamation (this includes libel if it is in written form, or slander if it is in oral form), such claims are rather difficult to pursue. Many people are keen on suing for defamation without having full appreciation of the law or practicalities of doing so. I will try and clarify the position below to give you a better understanding and cover some of these practicalities.

First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:

1. There has to be a defamatory statement - the assessment that is often used to establish this is whether the statement tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally

2. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant – this will vary based on what effect it will have but it really has to be something sufficiently serious

3. The statement has been published by the defendant to a third party

4. The claimant must prove that the words complained of were published about them - this should not be an issue if the claimant is named or clearly identified.

Whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has taken place, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is often complex and prohibitively expensive. A claim must be made in the High Court and will likely require the help of professional defamation lawyers, so the costs will often be high right from the outset, usually in the thousands. There is also no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally.

You must also consider whether the publisher of the statement can potentially defend the claim. For example, this can happen by proving the statement was true or an honest opinion which could have been made based on the available facts.

Instead of starting legal proceedings it would be best to contact the publisher of the comment, advise them that what they have done amounts to defamation and that you will consider pursuing the matter further if they do not retract their statement and issue an apology. A solicitor can also be instructed to write such a letter, although here will be costs involved and it does not always make a huge difference. Either option could prompt the publisher to reconsider their position, which would avoid the need for court action. Of course, if they refuse to comply the option of suing still exists, but consider the above information before going down that route.

In the meantime you can also contact Facebook to see if they can do anything about it and remove it, but they may decide that as they cannot verify its contents they will leave it as it often happens in these situations.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand. If anything remains unclear, I will be more than happy to clarify it for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Thank you so much . That is a big help on my way forward with this matter. Much appreciated

You are most welcome. If you have any further questions about this, please do not hesitate to get back to me and I will be happy to help. All the best.

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