A Wigan man who sent his dogs abroad to have their ears cropped has been allowed to keep them after a court heard of his devotion to the pets.
Zack Hurley sent three of his American Bully breed dogs abroad to have the cosmetic surgery carried out on their ears, knowing that the procedure was illegal in the UK but believing it was okay to have the surgery carried out overseas.
The operation, which reportedly cost the 29-year-old £400 each, involves cutting the animals’ ears for cosmetic reasons and then placing splints inside - forcing them to grow upwards.
The dad-of-two, of Kipling Avenue, was at risk of having the animals taken away from him, but he was reprieved by justices at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court who heard that the dogs were “a huge part of his life”.
The RSPCA, which says the process is “painful and entirely unnecessary”, launched an investigation after being notified of social media posts which showed Hurley’s dogs, called Milan and Bagheera, with cropped ears.
The animal welfare charity scoured his Facebook and Instagram accounts, finding a trove of images which also showed the dogs before having their ears cropped, indicating that he had arranged for the work to be done.
When a welfare officer visited his home to question him about the illegal practice, he said their ears were already cropped when he bought them on the internet.
The RSPCA said that while the practice of ear-cropping was “deliberate mutilation” and outlawed, it was clear that the dogs were “otherwise well looked after.”
Defending, Clive Rees told the magistrates that while Hurley knew that ear cropping was prohibited in Britain, he did not realise it was an offence for the dogs to be sent overseas to be cropped instead.
The bench was then given several character references, detailing how the dogs were doted on by Hurley and “rarely left his side.” He would often “take them wherever he goes”, and regularly shared photos of him playing with them on social media.
Addressing the lie Hurley told the RSPCA about the dogs already having their ears cropped before he purchased them, Mr Rees said he had panicked and later came clean when he realised he was “digging a hole for himself.”
“What this shows is someone who is truly fond of his dogs,” Mr Rees said of his client’s social media activity, adding: “He is not guilty of animal cruelty in the way we normally think of.”
Deciding it would be “detrimental to the dogs’ wellbeing” to take them away from Hurley, the bench instead ordered him to do 150 hours unpaid work, pay £800 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
He was told: “This is a serious offence. We are surprised to hear that you are so fond of your dogs yet you arranged to have this deliberate mutilation.”