Gamekeeper jailed after the use of canine to combat badgers and foxes | Scotland

A former gamekeeper at one among Scotland’s best-known grouse moors has been jailed for 8 months and banned for proudly owning canine for 15 years, after the use of canine to combat badgers and foxes.

Rhys Davies, from Gwynedd, north Wales, admitted previous this 12 months that he had used 5 Patterdale terriers for unlawful badger and fox-fighting at other places throughout Scotland whilst he used to be a gamekeeper at Millden property in Angus, close to Dundee.

In a case that stunned investigators, his terriers have been discovered to have horrific accidents to their muzzles and torsos, which he had handled at house the use of unauthorised medications, antiseptic sprays and staple weapons.

Police were alerted after a photo laboratory technician saw photographs Davies had taken of men digging into badger setts and fox dens.
Police have been alerted after a photograph laboratory technician noticed pictures Davies had taken of guys digging into badger setts and fox dens. {Photograph}: COPFS

In probably the most heaviest sentences observed for fees connected to organised badger-baiting, Davies used to be additionally fined £1,800 via Sheriff Derek Reekie at Forfar sheriff court docket on Monday, on fees of inflicting useless struggling and preserving canine for animal battling, in breach of the Animal Well being and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

“It’s deeply demanding: the horrific, merciless and mindless nature of the crime, in addition to the cruelty on your canine,” Reekie mentioned. “Being certified as a gamekeeper is an demanding issue which disputes [defence] claims of naivety.”

Vets who tested the terriers stored at Millden discovered one had portions of its decrease face lacking, and different canine had scars and puncture wounds to their legs, muzzles, chests and throats that had left them completely disfigured. Some wounds have been contemporary; maximum have been ancient.

The vets concluded some accidents have been in step with the canine many times getting used for face-to-face fight with badgers. Seized via the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in a raid with police in 2019, they have got all since been rehomed.

Leader Supt Mike Flynn, of the SSPCA, mentioned: “A custodial sentence sends a transparent message to any person who desires to make use of canine to bait and maim flora and fauna – they are going to be punished for it. Natural world crime is an endemic: no animal merits to be subjected to ache and struggling.”

Davies used to be an underkeeper at Millden, a grouse moor and pheasant shoot owned via a millionaire financier, Richard Hanson, which has lengthy been considered probably the most UK’s maximum prestigious taking pictures estates.

Feted via some govt businesses and ministers as a fashion grouse moor, Millden has provided grouse to the fame chef Nick Nairn and hosted college visits, however used to be subjected to a police raid in 2009 after a tagged golden eagle referred to as Alma used to be discovered poisoned. Different birds of prey have additionally been discovered shot and poisoned there, however no prosecutions adopted.

Davies’s tied cottage at Millden used to be raided via the SSPCA and Police Scotland in October 2019 after he had despatched a big set of trophy pictures of his badly injured canine and of mutilated foxes to a photograph laboratory to be revealed.

The images incorporated teams of guys digging into badger setts and fox dens. Horrified via what she noticed, a lab technician reported Davies to the SSPCA, which has investigative and prosecution powers, and which alerted the police.

Davies stored the terriers, which have been unchipped and now not registered with a vet, in filthy kennels in an outhouse subsequent to his property cottage. He additionally pleaded in charge to firearms offences after police seized a shotgun, rifle and ammunition mendacity scattered across the constructions with out being correctly secured.

The carcasses of 3 useless birds of prey have been additionally discovered all over the police seek, together with apparatus doubtlessly connected to hen of prey persecution. The police submitted a document to the Crown Place of job, which made up our minds to not prosecute Davies.

Davies used to be suspended via Millden property and resigned quickly after his arrest. Millden mentioned its workforce and house owners had had no wisdom of or involvement in any shape with Davies’s animal battling, and mentioned the entire animal-fighting incidents underneath investigation had taken position smartly clear of the property.

The canine seized via the SSPCA have been Davies’s private belongings and now not used for grouse or pheasant shoots, a spokesperson mentioned.

“The property does now not condone or tolerate any criminality in relation to the welfare of animals or flora and fauna and we have been stunned to be informed of the entire allegations after they got here to gentle,” he mentioned. “The property cooperated with the related government all over and frequently critiques and updates its compliance insurance policies with regards to flora and fauna control.”

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