#TheList backyard breeders Dawn Veronica Hillbeck, born 06/08/1993, and partner Louise Marie Hillbeck, born 21/08/1995, formerly of Whisgills, Newcastleton TD9 and more recently Cambridge Road, Bromborough, Wirral, Merseyside CH62 7JA – arranged for illegal ear cropping on an American Bully puppy
Dawn and Louise Hillbeck, who traded under the name Becks Bullies, admitted being involved in the ear cropping of a puppy named Russia. The pair pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges as a sheriff described the operation on Russia as a “butcher’s job”.
A vet who inspected the wounds of the pup said it had been carried out for “cosmetic” purposes and added it was “needless mutilation”.
Dawn Hillbeck pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to prevent the ear flaps being removed on a puppy under her care.
Louise Hillbeck admitted permitting Russia to be taken out of Scotland for the prohibited procedure.
The offence happened when the women were breeding American bullies – which sell for £5,000 each – at their then home in Newcastleton in the Scottish Borders.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court was told that ear-cropping was banned in most of Europe but was still allowed in the United States.
Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser explained that the American Bully was a new breed established in the 1990s from an American Pit Bull Terrier and an American Staffordshire terrier.
He said: “They are very strong looking dogs and some owners have their ears cropped for cosmetic reasons which makes them look mean and aggressive.”
Mr Fraser said the Scottish SPCA received information that the Hillbecks were involved in ear-cropping and went to their home in Newcastleton in April 2018 when they found Russia had recently had both earflaps removed.
He explained a nylon-type material had been used to stitch the wounds but they had been put in too tightly, the wounds were red and the dog looked in pain.
Mr Fraser said: “They failed to seek veterinary treatment for the wounds. One vet referred to it as cosmetic needless mutilation.”
The fiscal added he would be seeking an order disqualifying the women from owning animals due to their behaviour.
Russia was signed over to the Scottish SPCA during the investigation.
The women claimed the idea to ear crop the dog came from the co-owner, John Paton of breeding operation New Generation Bullies, who said they would need to do it for Russia if the dog was to do well in American Bully display shows.
Dawn Hillbeck’s lawyer said his client had been told the ear-cropping could be done in Poland where it was legal, but it was not stated in court where the operation had actually happened.
He said: “The pair have been naive in this to a certain extent. They were also told it would be good for the hygiene of the dog as well.
“They have learned their lesson. Disqualifying them from owing animals would be disproportionate.”
The court was told that Dawn Hillbeck owned four dogs and a horse which she would have to give up if she was banned.
On studying pictures of the dog’s wounds Sheriff Donald Ferguson described them as a “butcher’s job” and said the women knew full well it was illegal and the dog had suffered.
He added: “This was totally wrong and this animal suffered. On top of that you were doing it for profit.
“At the end of the day you were looking after this animal and it was your responsibility to look after it within the law and on a proper basis.”
Afterwards a Scottish SPCA spokeswoman said there was a growing trend in ear-cropped American bullies.
She explained: “We are pleased with the outcome of this case.
“Two years ago we didn’t have a single American bully in our care. However we are now seeing a worrying increase in the number of these dogs seized as a result of our investigations.
“The recent increase is entirely down to the current trend to own these dogs as a status pet.
“In the UK any surgical procedure carried out for purely aesthetic purposes is illegal. Ear cropping is one of these procedures.”
Sentencing: one-year Community Payback Order of 80 hours of unpaid work; five year disqualification order from breeding or dealing with animals. Dawn Hillbeck is allowed to keep her four dogs and a horse subject to Scottish SPCA or RSPCA inspection.