North Wales man posed with ‘severely injured’ dogs after using them for badger baiting
A man from North Wales who was photographed showing off his severely injured dogs after he used them to illegally bait badgers, has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Disturbing images and footage of the dogs, who had significant untreated facial and jaw injuries, were discovered on Philip Stevens’ mobile phone after alleged activities relating to wildlife crime were investigated by the charity Naturewatch Foundation.
Despite attempting to conceal his identity on social media by editing photographs with emojis to hide his face, Stevens was traced and a warrant carried out at his address on 26 January this year by the RSPCA and North Wales Police.
Two terriers and two bull lurchers were subsequently seized from the property, along with blood-stained shovels, a locator collar and other digging implements.
Stevens, 38 of Lon Lladfan, Prestatyn, was given a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and also banned from keeping dogs for five years by magistrates at Mold Magistrates Court on Tuesday following a prosecution by the RSPCA.
He had admitted four offences – one under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and three under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – at an earlier hearing on 16 August.
The court heard how officers discovered two severely injured dogs living in outdoor kennels at the back of Steven’s property. One, a white Patterdale Lakeland cross terrier called Millie, had extensive facial scarring resulting in the partial loss of her nose and an area of fresh grazing and reddening below her left eye. She was also over five weeks pregnant.
Another kennel housed a black and tan female terrier called Jess, who was sheltering in a plastic barrel. This dog seemed very reluctant to move and appeared withdrawn and lethargic. She was suffering from an extensive injury to her chin, which had scabbed over, and a laceration to the lower lip on the left-hand side. Both nostrils were also blocked, preventing her from breathing normally.
Two other dogs, a male and female bull lurcher, were also removed from the premises. All four animals have since been rehomed by the RSPCA after being signed over into the charity’s care.
Stevens, who said he didn’t own the dogs but was responsible for them, was told that they were being seized, to which he replied: “Can I say goodbye to them. I love my dogs.”
Analysis of his mobile phone revealed dozens of further disturbing images and footage, including:
Stevens digging at the entrance of a badger sett
One of the severely injured terriers with injuries consistent with those seen at the time they were seized
A live badger recently stunned and disabled but still kicking above ground with one of the dogs attacking it and another present
Two of the dogs being used to dig underground
Stevens holding one of the terriers who has significant injuries to her nose and face
One of the dogs being encouraged to attack a badger
One of the dogs attacking a fox, which is thought to be alive, with Stevens’ voice heard in the background
Stevens and an unknown male with one of the dogs and a dead fox.
Giving evidence to the court, a vet who examined the dogs, said: “The video clips demonstrate two terriers with significant and severe facial injuries. Both of these dogs will undoubtedly have suffered extreme pain as a result of their injuries and would both have required emergency veterinary care.
“It is my expert opinion that both terriers were definitely caused to suffer as a consequence of severe pain resulting from the serious injuries that both dogs have sustained. Furthermore the suffering has been prolonged by the failure to seek veterinary treatment.
“The badger was clearly suffering both physically as a result of the bite wounds sustained and mentally from terror and fear as a consequence of being attacked by a predator.
“It is obvious that a reasonably competent and humane person whose dog has sustained the level of injuries seen on the two terriers would immediately seek emergency veterinary care for the dog to alleviate the suffering. It is also obvious that a reasonably competent and humane person would not encourage or permit their dogs to engage in fights with wild mammals including foxes.”
Numerous items were seized from the property including a locator collar, digging implements with soil and hair samples, and several shovels that had red staining – consistent with blood – on the digging blade. Two knives were also found; one was significantly stained, again consistent with blood.
First aid items to treat people and animals, including oral electrolytes, a suturing stapler, wound spray and various injectable medicines were found in ammunition tins, along with numerous digging implements in a garage. A rucksack containing further digging equipment covered in fresh soil, a knife, a dog tethering spike and fox nets, were found in Stevens’ car.
Stevens was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service, costs of £500 and a £128 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the hearing, inspector Ian Muttitt from the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit – the team responsible for investigating serious and organised animal crime, including badger baiting and wildlife crimes – said: “Stevens showed a complete lack of compassion or empathy for his dogs or the wildlife he targeted whilst committing these offences. The dogs he says he loved sustained horrific injuries and were caused pain and suffering for a protracted period.
“Sadly, badger digging remains a serious problem in our countryside, and the RSPCA will not relent in bringing those involved in this cruel activity before the courts.”
Naturewatch Foundation campaign manager, Kate Parker, said: “Badger baiting has no place in modern society and Naturewatch Foundation, working in partnership with other agencies, will continue to investigate allegations and assist with enforcement to bring people like Stevens to justice. Our thanks go to North Wales Police for actioning our investigation package and the RSPCA for taking on the prosecution.”
PC Richard Smith of the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team said: “The court result today shows the positive effect of working closely together with other agencies in targeting illegal and cruel activity such as this in our rural areas. The result is welcomed and shows that we will not tolerate such behaviour.
“I would like to thank our partner agencies for the collaborative effort made to reach this point today and also encourage the public, particularly in our rural communities, to report any illegal activity to us via our website, or by calling 101.”
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