A WIGAN man has been branded “despicable” after he and three others were jailed for deliberate animal cruelty.
Their horrific behaviour, which included getting their pet dogs to savage a fox and attack a badger in its sett, were caught on film.
An RSPCA inspector said it was the most appalling act of barbaric animal fighting he had ever witnessed.
Daniel Ratchford, of St Wilfrid’s Road, Standish, was given a 12-week prison term, banned from keeping dogs for life and ordered to pay £200 court costs.
The 29-year-old was in the dock at Crewe Magistrates’ Court with three Liverpool men: Reece Welsh, 22, of Sunbourne Road; Ryan Kennedy, 24, of Townsend Avenue; and John Daly, 30 of Breeze Hill.
Daly was jailed for 22 weeks, Welsh for 16 weeks and Kennedy for 12 weeks plus the same ban and costs as Ratchford.
Their van and equipment was ordered to be confiscated and their dogs signed over to the RSPCA.
Daly and Welsh had pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett by causing a dog to enter the sett.
Daly also pleaded guilty to an offence of interfering with a badger sett and causing unnecessary suffering by causing a fight to take place between a dog and a fox.
Welsh, Ratchford and Kennedy admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a tan and white Lurcher dog by causing the dog to fight with a fox and failing to take such steps to prevent that happening.
The four were spotted acting suspiciously near an active badger sett on land in Nantwich in February 2013.
Police were called, the men were later stopped in their vehicle and when it was searched officers found six dogs – some with serious injuries – and hunting paraphernalia.
The men all claimed in interview that they had just been “rabbiting,” had permission to do so and that a fox had come into the area.
The dogs had pursued it down a badger sett and that’s why they were “digging it”.
The police arrested the men then contacted the RSPCA. During the investigation, a phone was seized from Daly and examined.
It contained photographs of a fox being savaged by a dog in an animal fight and also found on the phone were photos showing a badger being attacked by one of the dogs and video footage of another dog attacking the fox, which was in its last gasps of life.
They were dated on the same day the men were found at the badger sett.
No footage of rabbiting was found on the phone nor rabbit carcasses discovered.
RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes discovered that the sett which the men had been found near was active with badgers and it was clear that “digging” had been identified.
“A second dead fox was also found in a hedgerow close by.
After the hearing, Insp Joynes said: “These men had set out for a day’s killing spree – and this was nothing to do with ‘pest control’ of rabbits.
“Their van was stocked up with all the equipment they needed for a day’s killing.
“The hunting paraphernalia found included shovels, locator collars on the dogs, and of course the dogs.
“They were out for a day of hunting and would kill whatever they could find.
“The footage and photographs were probably the worst examples of animal cruelty I have ever seen.
“Even though we did not find the body of a badger it is clear from the photos and the injuries to one of the dogs that they had been involved in badger digging.
“This is the most appalling act of cruelty and barbaric fighting I have ever come across and it was just so sad to see this poor fox literally being ripped apart.
“People who take part in such despicable acts of cruelty for their own pleasure need to know that we are doing all we can to seek them out and bring them before the courts – it is not something we can tolerate in today’s society.”