#TheList serial wildlife and pet abusers Joshua Robert Percy Varey, born 26/02/1990, of Duke Street, Colne; Shaun Mullens, born 11/11/1991, of 19 Dean Street, Trawden, Colne BB8 8RN; Paul Ashworth, born 14/10/1967, of 31 Tennyson Road, Colne BB8 9SD – shook a cat out of a tree so their dogs could attack it
Josh Varey and accomplices Shaun Mullens and Paul Ashworth laughed as they set their dogs on other terrified animals so they could make ‘trophy’ videos for a dog-fighting racket.
Varey filmed Mullens and Ashworth climbing up a tree and trying to shake a cat out of its branches so that their dogs could maul it.
Varey and Mullens also filmed a horrifying incident in which they used one of their dogs to attack a badger after digging into its sett.
Magistrates saw DVD footage in which Varey could be heard laughing as distressed animals yelped in terror. In one attack, caught on film, a voice was heard saying ‘It’s dead’ before a badly injured badger crawled away.
The court had heard that police and RSPCA officers found the DVD during dawn raids at 11 homes across Pendle in summer 2013, in which officers seized three lurchers, two terriers and a lurcher/bull terrier cross, as well as computers, mobile phones, cash and drugs equipment
The operation followed a 12-month evidence gathering operation into badger digging, deer poaching, hare coursing and offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
In October 2013, six cats were killed by lurchers in attacks in Colne over three days. Police said the incidents were known as ‘cat coursing’, where dogs were trained to kill domestic pets before going poaching or badger baiting.
Magistrates heard that Varey, who bought and sold dogs for profit, and bred them to fight other animals, had injured and scarred dogs in cages outside at his home and was proud that his animals were ‘adept at fighting.’
Phones found at Varey’s house contained animal baiting videos, photographs of animals, and messages about ‘doing holes’, ‘going out with the terriers’ and ‘going digging’.
The prosecutor said: ‘ We suggest that this is talking about about putting dogs down holes to get at animals.’
He said there were photographs showing a scarred dog, a dog with blood around its mouth, and a photograph of a fox and fox cub.
When interviewed, Ashworth claimed he was only doing what he was told when he was shaking the tree a cat had run up.
The cat was forced to run quickly up another tree to get away from the dogs, and said the cat would have been terrified.
When Varey was questioned, he didn’t deny any responsibility for the film on his phone but made no comment. Mullens admitted it was his dog in the badger fight video.
After the case, RSPCA Inspector Ian Briggs said: ‘These men showed absolutely no regard for any of the animals, including their own dogs.
‘This was cruelty in its most abhorrent form.’
Varey and Mullens were jailed for 126 and 114 days respectively and banned from keeping pets for ten years (expires July 2024). Ashworth was jailed for 76 days and banned from keeping animals for 5 years (expires July 2019).
In February 2018 serial offender Varey was charged with further animal cruelty offences alongside another man, Howard Bernard Lewin, born 20/12/67, of 6 Dickson Street, Colne.
The pair pleaded guilty to being present at an animal fight and causing unnecessary suffering to a ferret and a rat. Varey also faced an additional charge of breaching his disqualification order after two dogs were found at his home.
Speaking about this case RSPCA special investigation officer Jason Bowles said: “We were alerted to a really disturbing video that had been posted on Varey’s Facebook page,”
“In the video, a pet ferret is pitched against a wild rat in a hutch and they are urged to fight. The men are clearly encouraging the animals to fight and are shouting at the ferret, willing it on to attack the rat.
“The rat is frantically trying to escape, climbing the bars of the hutch and looking for a way out.
“The men tip and shake the hutch to try to encourage the animals to fight. There are a few clashes but generally the terrified animals cower in separate corners.
“In the video, one of the men can be heard shouting at the rat: ‘That’s disgusting, I hate them, f***ing rodent b***ards.
“We launched an investigation into the video once it had been brought to our attention but never found the rat or the ferret so, sadly, we don’t know what happened to them.
“However, we will not stand for this sort of disgusting behaviour and cruelty towards animals. We hope this case serves to show that we take online videos showing cruelty to animals very seriously and, where offences have been committed, we will take appropriate action.”
“In 2014, Mr Varey was disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years, having been convicted of animal fighting offences under the Animal Welfare Act,” SOU inspector Chris Heyworth said. “That ban is still in place.
“He came to our attention again after Cumbria Police were called to a field to reports of two men – one of whom was Mr Varey – stuck in the mud in their vehicle. They were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Deer Act 1991 and a mobile phone was seized.
“Material from that phone was passed to Lancashire Police who were investigating wildlife crime offences with RSPCA inspectors. Photos, video and texts on the phone suggested the men were still involved in wildlife crimes and, therefore, a warrant was executed at a property in Colne, Lancashire, on 28 September.
“Despite his ban, we found two dogs – both lurcher types – at the property. One of the dogs belonged to someone else but one was quite clearly his. We also found lots of evidence on a phone that showed he was participating in the keeping of dogs.”
The dog – called Nell – was seized and placed into RSPCA care.
Sgt Damian Pemberton, Lancashire Constabulary’s Rural Policing, Wildlife and Heritage Crime co-ordinator, said: “This sentence is testimony to the hard work of our rural officers who are committed to putting an end to the unnecessary suffering of animals.
“Those who mistreat animals and take part in these types of cruel activities will be tracked down and brought to justice.
“Josh Varey is a well-known animal abuser with previous convictions for animal cruelty.
“His conviction and sentence sends a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated and our dedicated rural officers will work hard to bring those responsible to justice.”
Varey was given a 16-week jail term, suspended for two years; ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £250 in costs. He was also disqualified from keeping all animals for 15 years (expires March 2033).
Lewin was given a 12-month community order with a rehabilitation requirement.