#TheList Sean Ward, born c. 1991, originally from Greenock and more recently of Dougliehill Terrace, Port Glasgow PA14 – kept fighting dogs for killing wildlife including badgers, deer and foxes
Violent career criminal and wildlife persecutor Sean Ward was jailed for seven months after Scottish SPCA investigators uncovered evidence of his appalling animal cruelty. This included text messages in which Ward described setting dogs on a fox as “some buzz” as well as a sick video showing a live deer being restrained by it hind legs as voices urged dogs to attack it.
Photographs of Ward smiling beside the dead animal later emerged.
Ward was caught after a dog walker spotted him out with an injured dog in Port Glasgow in April 2018.
The black and white Jack Russell terrier was limping, had cuts and blood on her limbs and chest as well as a severe injury to her face.
The dog walker filmed the injured dog and sent footage to the Scottish SPCA.
The court heard police officers and Scottish SPCA investigators carried out a series of raids at Ward’s home after receiving the video from the concerned dog walker.
On one occasion, they found a Patterdale Terrier with scars on her face.
The animal was taken to a Scottish SPCA facility where she was examined by a vet. He found that the injuries were consistent with face-to-face fighting with a badger.
The vet viewed the film taken of the Jack Russell. In his opinion, the dog’s injuries were also consistent with face-to-face fighting with a badger.
A mobile phone seized during a search of Ward’s home was examined and a number of images and video were found.
One of the photographs showed Ward with a dead deer, a white lurcher and a Jack Russell.
A video of three dogs savaging a deer was also found where people were heard urging the dogs to attack.
Sara Shaw, head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), welcomed the sentence.
She said: “These dogs caused terrible and unnecessary suffering with numerous wounds and scars.
“COPFS will continue to work to ensure those who participate in this barbaric practice are prosecuted and would encourage anyone who may have information on dog fighting to contact the police or Scottish SPCA.”
Sentencing: Jailed for seven months. Banned from keeping animals for 20 years.
#TheList Kimberleigh Joanne Steele (aka Kim Donaghy), born 24/02/1989, currently of Castleland, Tulsk, County Roscommon, Ireland, and previously of 19 Polyanthus Drive, Sleaford and with links to Plymouth, Devon – bred dogs for fighting
Steele was part of a dog fighting ring which was headed up by her partner, John Herbert Knibbs.
Knibbs has failed to attend numerous hearings and a warrant is out for his arrest after he was convicted of dog fighting, ear cropping and causing unnecessary suffering.
Steele travelled from Ireland for a trial at Lincoln Magistrates Court on Monday, 8 April 2019.
Before moving to Ireland Steele lived in Sleaford with Knibbs and has also stayed at two different addresses in Plymouth: Downfield Walk PL7 2DT and Durban Road PL3
In court she was sentenced for aiding and abetting Knibbs as well as possession of a banned pit bull terrier. The court also heard how she had ten animals in total, which were all used in a dog fighting ring. One has since died.
RSPCA prosecutor Hazel Stevens told the court: “At the time of the raid Steele claimed to own all of the dogs.
“We are looking after the dogs in kennels for £15,700 a year. Some are so dangerous they need to be darted before the staff can go inside.”
Sentencing Steele, the judge told her: “Your partner Knibbs has not attended court and is not that big of a man without his dogs.
“The custody threshold has passed but I am going to suspend it because you have young children.”
Speaking after Steele’s sentencing RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall said : “It is a shame that Knibbs wasn’t here today.
“We are pleased with the district judge’s comments and the sentence he’s handed down. Knibbs isn’t bold enough to be here, we hope he will be sentenced soon.”
Sentencing: suspended custodial sentence of 16 weeks; £615 in fines. Banned from keeping animals for a paltry five years.
#TheList John Knibbs, born 04/02/64, most recently of Polyanthus Drive, Sleaford NG34 7HS, Stephen Gardner, born c. 1961, of Willows End, Bloxholm, Lincoln LN4 3QF, Adam Scott, born c. 1984 of Aber Eilian Bach, Llaneilian, Amlwch, Anglesey LL68 9LR and Kimberleigh Steele, also known as Kim Donaghy, born 24/02/88, of Downfield Walk, Plymouth PL7 2DT
The RSPCA prosecution case against a vicious dog-fighting gang who tried to breed the “ultimate dog” has been heard in court. Three members of the gang didn’t even bother to show up for their hearing and were convicted in their absence.
The court heard police and RSPCA investigators found eight dogs during a raid on a premises in Sleaford, including an American bulldog, a Bully Kutta cross Presa Canario and a pitbull terrier. Some of the dogs had horrific injuries, were scarred from fighting and in poor physical health.
The searches uncovered paraphernalia commonly used by people involved in dog fighting, including a ‘flirt pole’, a long pole with a rope attached and a ‘break stick’, a tool commonly used to break up a dog fight.
Serial dog fighter John Herbert Knibbs (who also uses the surname Donaghy), who was already banned for life from keeping animals, was the ringleader of the gang. His latest cruelty relates to when he was living in Sleaford with Kimberleigh Joanne Steele, but he has also stayed at addresses in Grantham, Barnsley, Stamford and Halifax.
Knibbs was convicted in his absence on charges which included keeping and training dogs for fighting, ear cropping and causing unnecessary suffering to a bull terrier called Baddy and another called Panther by failing to provide veterinary care for their injuries.
Distressing footage found on Knibbs’ mobile phone showed dogs being forced to fight for up to 45 minutes and being trained on treadmills. One video showed a dog tied to a treadmill and forced to run – a common training technique used to build up strength for fighting dogs.
Text messages exchanged between ring members indicated that one fight lasted 45 minutes and had ended when a terrified Presa Canario jumped out of a window to escape pitbull terrier Baddy as the latter dog went in for the kill.
Another text made reference to one dog being able to crush another’s bones with one bite.
Though his current whereabouts are unconfirmed, Knibbs is rumoured to have fled to Southern Ireland.
Knibbs’ partner Kimberleigh Joanne Steele was also convicted in absence for aiding and abetting him in evading his ban.
Messages and photos on Knibbs’ phone led investigators to two other addresses: Stephen Gardner’s home in Willows End, Bloxholm, and a luxury property with its own swimming pool in Anglesey, Wales, where backyard breeder of Presa Canarios Adam Scott resides with partner, Rachel Pearce (she was also originally charged but claims to have been acquitted). A badly scarred dog named Panther was found at Scott’s address.
Scott was convicted for having in his possession two pitbull terrier-type dogs contrary to Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, as well as aiding and abetting a disqualification order for Knibbs.
RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall, from the charity’s Special Operations Unit who investigated, said: “Some of these dogs had been trained to fight and some of them had been left suffering with horrible injuries from fighting.
“Although we never found the body of Baddy, the pictures and subsequent text messages about the fight revealed that there were severe puncture wounds to his head and the enforced fight between Baddy and a much larger Presa Canario was gruelling, lasting a total of 45 minutes.
“The videos also showed further evidence of this cruel and barbaric practice and the suffering of these dogs would have been horrendous.”
Insp Withnall added: “This was an organisation involved in keeping and breeding of dogs for fighting, owned and run by Mr Knibbs, a convicted dog fighter who had changed his name to John Donaghy to try and remain undetected.
“The court heard that this group were set on breeding a very large dog, possibly for fighting which they referred to as the ‘ultimate dog’.”
Sentencing: Adam Scott: ordered to pay £3,000 in costs plus £80 victim surcharge; 100 hours of unpaid community work.
A warrant is out for the arrest of Stephen John Gardner, who failed to attend court.
#TheList Neil Forrest, born 26/06/1974, of Meadow View, Aspenden, Buntingford SG9 9PB – ran an abhorrent dog fighting yard at his home
Former heroin addict Forrest trained dogs to fight and had images of dog fighting on his phone. He admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a Staffordshire bull terrier and for possessing three pit bull terrier-type dogs which he used to fight.
District Judge Derek French told Forrest: “You have shown little or no remorse about what these dogs have gone through. These dogs were used by you as fighting dogs.
“This was clearly done with a view of commercial gain.”
On 5 March 2017 a badly injured young female Staffordshire bull terrier was found cowering in a garden by a member of the public in Aspenden, after she managed to escape from Forrest’s home.
Prosecuting, Mark Jones, said: “She was found cowering in a garden with numerous open wounds and scars to her body. There were numerous bite injuries to the muzzle, the mouth, her legs, and near the left eye of the dog.
“The vet who looked at the dog said that the wounds were between three and four days old.”
RSPCA inspector Cliff Harrison said: “This poor dog was absolutely covered in wounds – both fresh and historic – with bite marks, scratches and puncture wounds predominantly around her muzzle, ears and legs.
“These sorts of injuries are exactly the sort of thing we see when dogs are forced to fight another dog and the vet agreed that the injuries were consistent with dog fighting.”
A number of calls were made by Forrest to vets and dog wardens, including from Forrest’s mobile, while they tried to find the missing bull terrier that was being treated at a Buntingford vets.
After concluding that the dog belonged to Forrest, who admitted having a 20-year addiction to heroin, the police and RSPCA launched a raid in Aspenden on 19 May 2017, finding books on pit bulls and dog fighting as well as three bull pit type dogs. Two of the dogs were extremely athletic and there were weighing scales and a treadmill to run dogs on in a garage next to the kennels.
Mr Harrison said: “It appears he has tried to run his own dog fighting yard – called Neil’s Yard – but it’s unclear whether he’s had much if any success with that.
“What is clear is that his dogs have significant injuries consistent with dog fighting and have clearly been caused suffering due to his pastime.
“We believe he has been involved in this abhorrent, secretive bloodsport for years.” Judge French said: “These dogs were being used and kept as a livelihood for you. These dogs were going to suffer seriously.”
Forrest was due to stand trial but pleaded guilty just before it was about to start to one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, keeping or training animals for use in dog fights and possessing dogs which were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Sentencing: 24 weeks in prison; costs of £750. Banned from owning animals for life. The three pit bull type dogs were ordered to be destroyed.
#TheList Tony Barbara, born 23/09/1964, of 31 High Street, Newmilns, East Ayrshire KA16 9EB – a convicted dog fighter who defied his ban on keeping dogs and went on to commit further cruelty offences
In February 2013 Tony Barbara was convicted of training pit bull terriers for illegal fights. Barbara had trained two pit bull terriers called Elaine and Susie and a bull terrier called Gerald for fighting and subjected two of the animals to a catalogue of suffering. He also attempted to carry out DIY treatment on their injuries in case his actions were discovered by the authorities.
Barbara, who was linked to the Essex underworld, moved to Scotland after receiving a suspended jail sentence and 10-year dog ban.
He resumed his activities within months but was arrested after the Scottish SPCA raided his home in November 2014 and found two injured pit bulls and equipment linked to the illegal activity.
Barbara was found guilty of six charges including breaching the Dangerous Dogs Act by keeping two female pit bull terriers for fighting, having syringes and medications, possessing “breaking sticks” for fights and causing the animals unnecessary suffering by failing to provide adequate care and treatment.
His solicitor, James Arrol, said heavily-tattooed Barbara was “a man who has a number of psychiatric and health difficulties”.
Scottish SPCA inspector Hannah Medley said Barbara spoke “freely and openly”, using dog-fighting terminology and explaining the terms and rules.
Ms Medley added: “He told us he had been dog-fighting for the last 20 to 30 years and had only seen one dog die, and that when a dog was dying it was still wagging its tail when it died.”
Ms Medley said Barbara described the “etiquette of dog fighting” and used its terminology, such as scratch lines, pits and coming up to scratch.
“He was talking about dog breeds and his fascination with bull breeds”, she said, adding Barbara described knowing vets who would teach how to treat injuries and self-medicate dogs.
After his arrest, Barbara gave “no comment” responses when asked why he had veterinary medication used specifically to treat dog injuries and syringes containing milky liquid.
He also refused to comment on whether the dogs had been identified as American Pit Bull terriers, which are strictly regulated, and attributed scars and injuries to “dives into bushes after rabbits”.
Police and animal welfare inspectors found a “flesh stapler”, a training “flirt pole” and notebooks with accounts of the fights at his previous home in Dagenham, Essex, in 2011, his earlier trial heard.
Sentencing: Jailed for 8 months and banned from keeping dogs for life.
#TheList Kerry Alun Evans, born c. 1987, most recently of Twelfth Avenue, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 9TB – kept and bred dogs for vicious fights
Evans was involved in organised dog fighting and kept six pitbull terriers to be used in this barbaric crime.
Following a search of Evans’ home and sheds at Pengarnddu in Merthyr Tydfil, six dogs and items of dog fighting equipment were found.
Officers also found syringes and antibiotics allegedly used to treat dogs after fights.
A vet who examined the dogs said they displayed numerous facial and bodily scars and concluded that the dogs had received their wounds from dogs bites, also stating that the injuries would have caused the dogs to suffer if no veterinary treatment had been sought.
The dogs were ordered to be destroyed by the RSPCA
The court heard that dog fighting existed in a “small fraternity” who met across the country and trained their animals specifically to fight.
Sentence: six-month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months; 200 hours of unpaid work; £1,000 towards the £50k prosecution costs. Banned from owning dogs for 8 years (expires March 2022).
#TheList backyard breeders Timothy Davey (aka Timothy Lee O’Reilly), born 20/07/1985, of Ravenscliffe Avenue, Bradford BD10 0JX and Charlotte Mountain, born c. 1986, of Victoria Avenue, Yeadon, Leeds LS19 7AS – banned from keeping animals for just five years after three dogs were found in a shocking state
Charlotte Mountain admitted allowing dogs Gismo, Rino and Bingo to suffer, while partner Timothy Davey, a career criminal with convictions for violence, was found guilty of neglect following a trial.
The bull breed dogs were suffering from severe skin and eye conditions, which saw two of them lose extensive amounts of fur.
RSPCA inspector Nikki Cheetham said: “These dogs were in a shocking state when they came to our attention and could not have looked more different after getting the treatment they needed.
“Gismo had virtually no hair on her body and her skin was red raw from sarcoptic mange. She really was a sad sight. Rino wasn’t much better.”
The dogs came to the RSPCA’s attention in June 2012.
Sentencing: Mountain – 10-week curfew; £100 costs. Banned from keeping animals for five years. Davey – banned from keeping animals for five years.
#TheList Javed Jahangir, born 05/06/1983, of 43 Milton Road, Chesham HP5 2ET and Sajid Mahmood, born 01/03/1983, formerly of Batchelors Way, Chesham and as at 2019 of 23 Victoria Road, Tipton, West Midlands DY4 8SN – admitted a series of offences relating to illegal dog fighting
Javed Jahangir and Sajid Mahmood were both jailed for offences the RSPCA described as “one of the most premeditated and barbaric forms of deliberate animal cruelty”.
A raid on Jahangir’s home in Milton Road led to officers finding a pitbull terrier-type dog – a breed banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act – and a computer containing footage showing the two men fighting dogs in fields thought to be close to their homes.
Habitual criminal Mahmood, who has previous convictions for violent street robbery and car theft was identified from the footage and this led to the RSPCA searching further properties in Chesham that he had links to.
There, officers found another pit bull terrier-type dog, muzzles, leads, computers, phones, cameras and media storage devices – all of which were seized.
Jahangir admitted four offences linked to animal fighting and one of having an illegal dog, while Mahmood pleaded guilty to three fighting-related charges and to having an illegal dog.
The operation to bring the pair to justice was a joint one between the RSPCA and Thames Valley Police.
Chief inspector Mike Butcher, of the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “Dog fighting is one of the most premeditated and barbaric forms of deliberate animal cruelty. We are delighted that all of those who have been brought to justice have so far been given bans on keeping animals.
“Hopefully the combination of the bans and the custodial sentences will send a clear message to anyone who is involved in dog fighting, or is thinking about taking part.”
The Chiltern district’s area commander Chief Inspector Ian Hunter said: “This case came about as a result of concerns raised to police by local residents. I hope that today’s result shows that not only have we taken those concerns seriously, but that we and the RSPCA have used all the powers at our disposal to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.
“This type of inhumane offence will not be tolerated by Thames Valley Police. I would urge anyone with information about this type of illegal activity to come forward and speak to police or the RSPCA immediately.”
Sentencing: jailed for 20 weeks; Jahangir was ordered to pay £5,000 in prosecution costs and Mahmood £1,500. Both men were banned from keeping animals for life.
#TheList convicted dogfighters Colin Reid most recently of Lusylaw Road, Banff AB45 1EW and brother David Reid, born 06/10/1988, most recently of High Shore, Macduff AB44 1SN
In September 2011 Colin and David Reid pleaded guilty to encouraging bull terrier-type dogs to attack each other at a disused open-air swimming pool in Tarlair between July 29, 2008 and January 20, 2011, and also to keeping dogs for fighting.
Undercover investigators raided the homes of the pair and found footage of dog fighting on a laptop. The brothers, were believed to have operated among a wider ring of dog fighters.
And it is believed they had been involved in the depraved activity for years.
The case marked the first conviction for animal fighting since new legislation allowed SSPCA inspectors to search and enter homes of suspected dog fight organisers.
The brothers are close associates of a man whose dog was found in a ditch by the SSPCA during the investigation.
The dog had been shot through the skull and investigators are convinced other dogs who had become too old to earn their keep through fighting would also have been killed.
Other fighting dogs were found dead within 20 miles of Banff, showing signs of appalling cruelty and suggesting the problem was widespread.
The dogs are believed to have been killed and dumped to avoid the SSPCA bringing charges against their owners.
In 2006, David Reid was convicted of cutting off part of both ears of two bull terriers. He pleaded guilty and was banned for two years from keeping animals and fined £300.
An undercover investigator said: “The implication of mutilating this animal was that it was a fighting dog.
“Owners do this to ready dogs for fights, to make them look fierce and to stop other dogs locking jaws on their ears while fighting.
“At the time, we couldn’t prove that he was involved in dog fighting but then the case was blown wide open when we saw the video.
“It shows both Reid brothers throwing their own dogs into a fight in the middle of the night at a secluded place not far from their home.”
The investigator added: “We also found videos of dog fights from eastern Europe.”
The probe uncovered evidence from farmers, who believed their cattle may have been attacked by dog fighters training their animals.
The crucial evidence was gathered when the SSPCA investigation team and police raided four homes, seizing six pit bulls.
Intelligence was received the following month that a dog had been shot and dumped on a farm.
Officers were shocked to see a clear bullet hole through the back of its skull.
The dog’s carcass still held an identifying microchip, which proved it belonged to an associate of the Reid brothers.
Psycho David Reid was also sentenced to jail for going on the rampage after he was reported to the SSPCA. He hunted down a man he suspected of “grassing” him and attacked him along with an accomplice, breaking his skull and pelvis.
Sentencing: David Reid was jailed for six months and Colin Reid was sentenced to four months. They were banned from keeping dogs for just five years (expired September 2016).