The owner, 25-year-old Christine Wilkinson, said at the time, that the loss of the puppies had left her and her two-year-old daughter devastated.

But on the day that Cooper, aged 28, of Avon Road, Lighthorne Heath, was due to stand trial for the burglary, prosecutor Justin Jarmola applied to add a second charge of handling stolen goods.

Cooper then pleaded guilty to that charge, detailing that he had “undertook or assisted in the retention, removal, disposal or realisation” of the three puppies by or for the benefit of another person.

Mr Jarmola said a decision had been taken the previous day, after a review of the case, that the plea, first proposed by Cooper through his barrister last month, would be acceptable.

Richard Davenport, for Cooper, conceded: “He does have a most horrendous antecedent record, fuelled by his drug addiction, but only a couple of minor thefts in recent years.”

Asking for the case to be adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Cooper, who would have been classed as a third-strike burglar if he had been convicted of the break-in, Mr Davenport said he had been trying to get his life back on track.

Adjourning for the report to be prepared and remanding Cooper in custody, Judge Parker told him: “I regard this handling as an extremely serious offence of its kind.

“It is inconceivable that you could not have known where the dogs had come from.

“You must have been close to the burglary, and I know you were physically close to the premises.

“You have managed to avoid conviction for a third qualifying burglary; but you were dealing with live creatures which, incidentally, had a large financial value as well as a sentimental one.”