#TheList Joe Whittam, born 07/06/1990, of Langdale Road, Carnforth, Lancashire LA5 9AU – set his dogs on a pet cat and fox; failed to provide vet treatment for his injured dogs
Joseph Whittam, who also uses the surname Riding, pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act in relation to encouraging his two dogs to attack a cat and a fox, as well as failing to provide veterinary attention for the dogs themselves.
The RSPCA joined Lancashire Constabulary to execute a warrant at Whittam’s address in August 2017 after intelligence that suggested he was involved in wildlife crimes with his two dogs.
The dogs – a terrier called Rex and a lurcher called Zip – were removed by police and placed into the RSPCA’s care. A mobile phone was also seized and investigators discovered a number of shocking videos saved on the phone.
RSPCA special investigation officer Jason Bowles said: “In one video, the two dogs are going crazy, barking and snapping at the mesh of a trap with a black and white domestic cat inside.
“In a second video, the cat is released along with the dogs and the dogs grab the cat and literally start to rip it apart while the cat screams and cries in pain. It is horrific and absolutely blood-curdling. Many of our staff here at the RSPCA haven’t been able to stomach watching it.
“One of the magistrates had to leave court after watching the sickening footage.
“The cat was killed although we never found the body and never traced the poor cat’s owners.”
He added: “In another video, the dogs can be seen attacking and biting a fox. In all the footage Whittam can clearly be heard encouraging the dogs and egging them on.”
Rex and Zip both had old injuries – thought to be caused by their attacks – which had not been treated. They received veterinary care and remain in the RSPCA’s care. They will be rehomed once the case has concluded.
Further analysis of Whittam’s phone uncovered images of a dog being encouraged to attack a gerbil and still images of the fox attack which show the animal being baited by the dog.
Whittam claimed the fox had been shot and injured before his dogs got hold of it.
Lancashire Constabulary’s Sgt James Pinder said: “This investigation began as a result of community information in relation to animal welfare and poaching offences.
“I hope the investigation clearly demonstrates that we will work with our partner agencies and will deal with offenders in a robust manner.
“The sentence, which marks the end of a 16-month investigation, is welcomed by Lancashire Constabulary and we hope it will send a clear message to those who think it is acceptable to partake in these criminal activities.”
Sentencing Whittam at Preston Magistrates’ Court, the chairman of the bench said the offences were sustained, deliberate and gratuitous
Sentencing: Jailed for 22 weeks; ordered to pay a total of £490. Disqualified from keeping animals for life.
#TheList Natalie Keenan, born c. 1989, and David Knight, born c. 1977, both of Sandon Old Road, Meir, Stoke-on-Trent ST3 – kept 23 pets – including a barn owl, a fox and a raccoon dog – inside a smelly and flea-ridden house of horrors
David Knight pleaded guilty to five charges related to animal cruelty, while Natalie Keenan admitted four offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
The pair’s mini-zoo was discovered by chance when a utility company official went round to the Meir home to execute a warrant as they hadn’t paid their gas bill.
He alerted the RSPCA, who were confronted by the stench of neglect, with piles of dog poo in the kitchen, rotting chickens in a snake tank and animals covered in fleas.
Other creatures – from pets to exotics to wild animals – were being kept in tiny filthy cages, with barely enough room to move and without ready access to water.
One terrier-type dog, called Lexi, was in such a poor condition that she had to be put to sleep.
Hazel Stevens, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said Lexi was experiencing ‘significant suffering’. She was virtually blind, emaciated with protruding bones, had little fur and an infected tumour that was hidden underneath a ‘foul-smelling mess’.
The dog was found curled up on a pile of dirty nappies and had to be carried out of the house as she couldn’t walk.
The couple also had:
another dog, Mocha the French bulldog
a cat called Gizzy, who both had skin and flea problems;
a barn owl caged up in a bedroom
a fox living in a cage in another room;
a racoon dog
a bearded dragon
and an African grey parrot called Charlie.
RSPCA Inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “When I arrived at the property the couple wouldn’t let me inside so I waited outside for over two hours until police arrived.
“During that time the family carried bin bag after bin bag of rubbish out of the house.
“When I finally went inside it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Even though they’d been clearing out for two hours it was still absolutely filthy and the animals were being kept in horrifying conditions.
“There was cage after cage and animal after animal. The rooms were strewn with rubbish, all of the animals’ accommodation was filthy and their welfare needs were clearly not being met.
“It was disgusting and it was mass-scale neglect.”
The other animals remain in RSPCA care and can now be rehomed or moved to suitable keepers.
“Many of these animals simply shouldn’t be kept as pets let alone kept like this,” Inspector Melvin added.
“To see these poor animals living in such squalor was heartbreaking. I’m just glad they can all now have a second chance at find loving new homes where their needs will be properly catered to.”
Sentencing: 12-month community order including a 30-hour rehabilitation requirement. Total of £235 each in costs and charges. Both were disqualified from keeping animals for three years.
#TheList huntsman George R Adams, born c. 1951, of 2 Ramshill Cottages, Stamford Road, Peterborough PE6 7EZ – used a pack of hounds to kill a fox
Adams, a huntsman with the Fitzwilliam Hunt, was in charge of the pack of hounds when it killed a fox on January 1, 2016.
The court heard that the hunt started in Wansford, Cambridgeshire and that the fox was eventually killed near Elton by the pack of hounds.
Adams’ co-defendant John Mease, of 3 Kennels Cottages, Milton Park, Peterborough PE6 7AB, who was present at the hunt with a golden eagle, was found not guilty after a court heard he used the bird of prey to catch animals, rather than a pack of dogs.
Mease was further cleared of causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal despite ‘dispatching’ another fox by driving a KNIFE through its eye after it was caught by his raptor in 2013.
The court heard from saboteurs Ruth Nichols and Stephen Milton, who had tracked the hunt.
Video footage shown to the court taken by Mr Milton, which involved around 40 hounds – with the sound of a hunting horn clearly heard.
Mr Milton said he had seen the hunt tracking the fox, and had not heard any calls to ward the dogs off from the fox.
Adams, who joined the Fitzwilliam Hunt in 1981 and became a huntsman in 1984, told the court he had not seen the fox before it was killed.
When asked if it was his intention to kill the fox with hounds, he said: ‘Absolutely not. We wanted to flush it out for the bird of prey.’
Mr Mease told the court there was no chance for him to release his golden eagle to catch the fox because the saboteurs were in the field, which would provide a risk to the bird.
He was asked why he never radioed Adams to call the hunt off.
He said: ‘A hunt is a fluid thing. It was changing minute by minute. It was the heat of the moment and it was the first time I had come across saboteurs in my 11 years.’
He told the court he was in charge of the bird but had no control over the pack of hounds, which was Adams’ responsibility.
Speaking after the trial, Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson Lee Moon said: ‘To anyone who witnessed the events on the day in question it was abundantly clear that a wild mammal was hunted and killed illegally, in a most gruesome manner.
‘Although a fox had to suffer and die due to the blatant and remorseless actions of the defendants we are pleased that hunt saboteurs were able to bring at least one of them to justice.
‘We would like to thank Cambridgeshire police who conducted a robust and unbiased investigation.
‘The loopholes and exemptions in the current act have always been cynically exploited by hunts in order to operate much as they would have done prior to the ban.
‘The guilty verdict proves that hunting with a full pack of hounds is not the same as Falconry and the judge in summing up confirmed as much.
‘The outcome will of course have wider reaching implications for all those hunts around the country who claim to use this exemption.
‘We will continue to vigorously oppose those who gain enjoyment from the torture and killing of our wildlife and will use all the tools at our disposal to those ends.
‘We have the overwhelming support of the general public who wish to see an end to the barbaric minority pastime.’
Sentencing: fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £950 costs.
#TheList Jack Crocker, born c. 1976, of High View Farm, Creegbrawse, Truro TR4 8NE Chacewater, Cornwall, and Robbie Long, born c. 1996, of Lower Tolgullow Vean Farm, Little Beside, Redruth TR16 5PX – laughed as they set dogs on a young fox
Crocker and Long were given suspended sentences after admitting causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
The RSPCA conducted an investigation after video footage was posted on Facebook which depicted dogs being set upon a fox.
Crocker also admitted using a bow to kill a wild animal at an earlier hearing.
The video footage showed the two men in a barn with dogs, Lady and Princess, who can be seen attacking the fox as laughter is heard in the background.
RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs said: “The footage clearly shows these two men watching as the fox was subjected to what would have been a painful and drawn out death.
“Far from deal with the situation responsibly and humanely, instead they filmed the incident and could be heard laughing as the fox was being attacked.
“We hope this case being brought before the court will encourage others to report any concerns they have about animal welfare to report them to the police or RSPCA.”
Crocker had previously pleaded guilty to shooting a wild rabbit with a bow. This also only came to light when the RSPCA became aware of a photo on Facebook.
Both Crocker and Long were sentenced to six weeks in prison, suspended for a year, and fined £425 and ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.
Crocker was also given an additional two-week suspended prison sentence to run consecutively for using a crossbow to kill an animal.
Neither of the two men were banned from keeping animals but voluntarily signed over both Lady and Princess into the care of the RSPCA.
#TheList for the persecution of wildlife including badgers and deer plus dog cruelty: Graham Coombes, Oliver Blatch, Kenneth Danes, Gethyn Durham, Dean McGrath, Pheon Radford, Ryan Robinson, Joseph O’Connor, Brian Forrest, Philip Cross and Daniel Ravenscroft
Eleven men were sentenced – three receiving jail terms – for their part in a series of “abhorrent” attacks by dogs on deer, badgers and foxes. Graphic and distressing video footage found on the mobile phone of the ringleader Graham Coombes was shown in court, showing dogs savaging badgers and deer as the accused looked on and gave encouragement.
Analysis of one of the men’s phones revealed thousands of text messages, including one in which he claimed to have used his dogs to kill 178 deer, 894 rabbits, 28 foxes and 22 hares in just six months.
Jeremy Cave, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the ‘primary motivation seems to be gratuitous pleasure’.
Mr Cave said the group would go out ‘lamping’ – using powerful lamps at night to startle and stun deer before setting dogs, usually lurchers, on them.
He said their aim was ‘to kill as much wildlife as possible’.
Mr Cave said Coombes was at the ‘centre of the operation, organising nights out, posting trophy pictures on social media’.
The other men involved were Oliver Blatch, Kenneth Danes, Gethyn Durham, Brian Forrest, Dean McGrath, Joseph O’Connor, Pheon Radford, Ryan Robinson, Philip Cross and Daniel Ravenscroft.
Mr Cave said that of the 27 offences, 22 were related to killing or attacking deer with dogs, four matters were of animal welfare issues relating to the dogs – including neglect – and another was the possession of a dangerous dog.
The court heard how a search of Coombes’ land by Trading Standards found a pile of animal carcasses with at least 20 separate skulls at the top of the heap.
The incinerator operator informed RSPCA investigators they disposed of 604 kilos of animal products, all believed to be from hunts.
Coombes also got another person to shoot his severely injured dog after it had been fighting a badger ‘for four hours’.
Details of offences and sentencing:
Graham Coombes, born c. 1975, a groundworker of 2 Abbey Road, Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9HZ pleaded guilty to three counts of intentionally killing deer at night on different dates in 2014. He pleaded guilty to two counts of willfully killing a badger and one of willfully injuring a badger. He pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a terrier called Marley by failing to treat its injuries. Coombes was sentenced to a total of 20 weeks in prison. He was ordered to pay £3,000 court costs and £60 victim surcharge. He was disqualified for keeping dogs for life.
Oliver Blatch, born c. 1989, Little Acre, Back Lane, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 6SQ pleaded guilty to two counts of killing deer at night. District Judge Baker noted Blatch was of previous good character before sentencing him to a total of eight weeks, suspended for one year, to complete 180 hours’ unpaid leave, pay £800 court costs and £60 victim surcharge.
Kenneth Danes, born c. 1987, of 11 Otterford Gypsy Park, Culmhead near Taunton TA3 7DX pleaded guilty to two counts of killing deer at night. District Judge Baker noted he was a hardworking man of good character and his early guilty plea. She sentenced him to a total of eight weeks suspended for 12 months and ordered him to pay £800 court costs, £60 victim surcharge and to forfeit his dog Cruz.
Joseph O’Connor, born c. 1993, a farmhand of Pontardawe near Swansea, admitted three charges of killing deer in 2014. District Judge Baker told O’Connor the killing of deer was “absolutely abhorrent, it’s barbaric”. However, she recognised his probation report showed genuine remorse and he was of previous good character. She also recognised his advocate’s observation that he was of “limited ability” and his “sense of shame”. She told him he had worked in agriculture his whole life yet despite that he involved himself in the killing of deer. He handed him a nine-week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months. He also had to complete 200 hours’ unpaid work, pay £800 court costs and £80 victim surcharge.
Gethyn Durham, born c. 1989, a landscape gardener of 36 Marl Court, Cwmbran, Gwent, admitted one count of killing a deer. He also pleaded guilty to possession of a pitbull-type dangerous dog and five charges of keeping other dogs in an unsuitable environment. District Judge Baker said she accepted his dog Bonnie was a “beloved family pet” but his probation report “shows [Durham] shows little remorse and has antipathy for the RSPCA and their work”.
Durham was jailed for six weeks followed by 12 months’ supervision. He was ordered to pay £800 court costs and £115 victim surcharge. As his partner broke down in the public gallery, District Judge Baker told Durham the legislation regarding dangerous dogs “ties my hands” and she ordered the dog be destroyed. Durham was also told he was disqualified from owning dogs for five years.
Brian Forrest, born c. 1976, Upper Lodge, Tetton Estate, Kingston St Mary, near Taunton, owner of Brian Forrest Electrical, Taunton, pleaded guilty to a single count of killing deer. District Judge Baker also noted how he was of previous good character and he had shown genuine remorse. She sentenced him to six weeks jail, suspended for a year, to complete 140 hours unpaid work, pay £800 court costs and £60 victim surcharge. She also ordered him to forfeit his dog Eve.
Dean McGrath, born c. 1987, of Cwmbran, pleaded guilty to a single count of killing deer. McGrath was handed a six week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. District Judge Baker ordered him to complete 160 hours’ unpaid work, pay £800 court costs and £60 victim surcharge. He was also ordered to forfeit his dog Blue.
Pheon Radford, born c. 1994, of 19 Cross Street, Pentre, Ystrad in the Rhondda Valley, pleaded guilty to killing a deer and causing unnecessary suffering to a dog. District Judge Baker said Radford left his dog Scar to suffer from an “unpleasant” injury and listed previous scars on its body. She said he had deliberately travelled from Wales to take part in the deer hunts with Cross. She sentenced him to a total of 10 weeks, suspended for 12 months; to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work, pay £800 court costs and £60 victim surcharge. He was also disqualified from keeping dogs for three years and to forfeit his dog Scar.
Ryan Robinson, born c. 1996, of 1 Foundry Court in Chudleigh, admitted taking a deer without the consent of the owner. He was handed a 12 month community order, must take part in a 10 day rehabilitation requirement, complete 200 hours’ unpaid work and pay £800 court costs and a victim surcharge of £85.
Philip Cross, born c. 1980, of 20 Bryn Ivor St,Tonypandy in the Rhondda was found guilty after trial of killing deer at night. He was jailed for eight weeks and disqualified for keeping dogs for five years. He was ordered to pay £4,000 court costs and £80 victim surcharge.
Daniel Ravenscroft, born c. 1979, of Pearroc Vean, Grange Rd, Buckfastleigh TQ11 was found guilty after trial of killing deer at night. District Judge Baker said she took into account his early guilty plea and his 10 years’ service in the British Army. She noted he had given up his dog voluntarily and his probation report spoke of how he recognised how low he had fallen and the devastation it had caused him, leaving him “so embarrassed, so remorseful and so ashamed”.
Ravenscroft was sentenced to six weeks’ custody, suspended for 12 months, to complete 200 hours’ unpaid work, forfeit his dog and pay £4,000 court costs and £60 victim surcharge.
Speaking outside of court, RSPCA Chief Inspector Will Mitchell said Coombes’ phone contained around 30,000 images ‘mostly depicting wildlife crime and the use of dogs to kill wildlife, around 11,000 text messages, and videos’.
The texts contained a series of ‘colloquial descriptions of animals, so for badgers they were described as ‘pigs, ‘black and whites’, ‘humbugs’ and ‘smellies’.
He said: ‘There would be the bravado in terms of the type of dogs used and the successes of the dogs. They wanted them for the fight, for destruction.
‘They might say this was sport or pest control – but it’s blood lust.’
#TheList Samuel Lyas, born 27/03/1990, and Valentine Baldock, born 26/05/1984, both of Brent Pelham, Buntingford, Herts, for leaving their injured dogs to suffer after forcing them to fight foxes and badgers
Lyas (pictured) and Baldock admitted causing unnecessary suffering to terriers, some of whom were left with the skin ripped from their lower jaws.
The RSPCA’s special operations unit began investigating Lyas, who is originally from Witham in Essex, after being made aware of allegations that he used his dogs to attack wild animals. A warrant was executed by Herts Constabulary’s rural operations team at his home in April 2015.
RSPCA officers found six terriers, including a red male called Max and a black longhair called Bronson who both needed treatment for their injuries. Max was suffering ‘de-gloving’ injuries – the dog had no skin on his lower jaw, leaving the flesh exposed after it had been ripped off.
A tethering post was found by RSPCA and police officers, which pictures on Lyas’ phone showed was used to tie up foxes for the dogs to practise on.
A homemade noose was also found.
A separate warrant the same day at Baldock’s address, also in Brent Pelham, found more dogs, including black terriers called Gravel and Todd, with head, facial and jaw injuries which had not received proper treatment.
A vet also found staples in the corner of Gravel’s mouth, some of which had become partially detached from the skin. These had been inserted by Baldock.
A series of text messages between Lyas and a friend revealed Bronson had been involved in a fight with a fox. One text said: “Had hold of him from start to finish not a noise from him just grunted with his mouth full.”
Prosecutor Lauren Bond told the court: “These people are not fit and proper to look after animals.
“They have shown a complete contempt for the safety of animals, not just the dogs but the foxes.
“These are not injuries that have occurred by accident, they have occurred through deliberate placing of a dog in that situation.”
Lyas and Baldock lived in neighbouring houses in Brent Pelham, which were provided by their employers, who have since sacked and evicted them. While the employer is not named in the linked article, it is known that both men worked for the Puckeridge Hunt, Lyas as a terrierman and Baldock as a kennel huntsman. It is alleged that the hunt paid their legal costs but then cut ties just before conviction following negative publicity.
The decision to seize a dog found in Lyas’ home drew an angry reaction from the public gallery, with his friends and family claiming she belonged to his partner.
One of his entourage shouted: “How much more do you want to take away?”
Sentencing: Lyas – 26-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years; £3,600 in costs; 280 hours’ unpaid work. Baldock – 225 hours’ community service; £3,025 in fines. Both banned from keeping animals for life.
#TheList Zamual Mallinson (DoB 02/11/1990), formerly of St Marys Lane, Binbrook, Market Rasen, Lincs – filmed himself kicking rabbit in ‘act of brutality’ and had dogs with facial injuries kept in awful conditions
Mallinson, currently (2018) of Drigh Road, Brookenby, Binbrook, Market Rasen, was found guilty of keeping a Staffordshire bull terrier, a lurcher cross and a patterdale terrier for animal fighting.
He was investigated by the RSPCA’s special operations unit after he bragged on Facebook about how he used his dogs to fight foxes and badgers.
A search at an address on Edinburgh Road, Brookenby, Lincolnshire, in April 2014 found his dogs kept in unsuitable conditions and with injuries consistent with animal fights.
On his phone, which was obtained during the search, footage was discovered of Mallinson walking up behind a wild rabbit and kicking the animal like a football.
Speaking about the case, RSPCA Chief Inspector Ian Briggs said: “Our investigation was initially focused on Mallinson keeping his dogs to attack and fight wild animals. However, the footage we discovered on his mobile phone, of him deliberately and unashamedly kicking a wild rabbit, shows his contempt for animals.”
Sentence: Mallinson was sentenced to 12-week custodial sentences, suspended for 12 months, for each offence, to run concurrently. 150 hours of unpaid work; fine of £7,000, victim surcharge of £80; banned from keeping dogs for 10 years (expires September 2025).
#TheList serial animal baiters Ronald Guy, born c. 1950, of 52 Harrowby Road, Birkenhead CH42 7HU and son Lee Guy, born 1971, previously of 58 Harrowby Road – filmed wild animals being torn apart by dogs in arranged fights
Ronald and Lee Guy pleaded guilty to a total of seven charges of causing unnecessary suffering to chickens, rats, pigeons and a fox.
A joint operation between the RSPCA and Merseyside Police discovered DVDs and films of the offences at the defendants’ homes after a search was carried out at a nearby allotment.
The footage showed animal cruelty taking place and both father and son were arrested.
Ronald Guy pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three chickens by inhumanely slaughtering them.
Lee Guy admitted the inhumane slaughter of chickens, as well as causing 12 wild rats to be attacked by dogs in locations across Birkenhead, and feeding feral pigeons to ferrets.
He also admitted putting a fox in a cage and setting dogs on it until they tore the animal apart and killed it.
The offences – which took place in front of a gathered crowd at two separate Harrowby Road addresses and a Birkenhead allotment between November 1, 2011 and June 6, 2013 – were captured on video.
Referring to the offences committed by Lee Guy, Chris Murphy, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said: “The charges involve the slaughter of chicken, they involve the causing of wild rats to be attacked by dogs.
“There are three offences relating to the rats and there’s also an offence which the RSPCA says is perhaps the most serious, of causing the animal fight to take place between a fox and three dogs.
“The fox was in a caged box and the three dogs were put in that box and set upon it, tearing it apart and killing it.”
John Ballam, defending, said both Ronald and Lee Guy were deeply “ashamed” of their actions.
He told the court that the prospect of being banned from owning animals would be a considerable punishment for both men but especially for Ronald given his history and success in dog shows.
District Judge Michael Abelson said: “This was shocking, absolutely inhumane behaviour.
“Most people would not be able to comprehend how you could treat animals with such cruelty.”
The pair’s four dogs – one of which has recently given birth to six puppies – were seized and rehomed.
The dogs had evidence of facial scarring likely caused during fights with other animals.
Following sentencing, RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes said: “The maximum sentence would be inadequate with regards to the suffering the animals have gone through.
“This sort of offence is barbaric – it is abhorrent cruelty that belongs in the history books.
“There has been a rise in this sort of behaviour in Wirral and the Northwest and if people are going to take the decision to get involved in that sort of cruelty, then they can expect to spend time in prison.”
Sentencing: Lee Guy – 22-week custodial sentence; £300 costs. Ronald Guy – 12-week custodial sentence; £300 costs. Both were banned from keeping animals for life.