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Man jailed for dog fighting

A DOG owner has been jailed for three months and banned from keeping animals for five years after he was convicted of a string of offences, including causing a dog fight, in the first case of its kind in the county.

The RSPCA has praised the judge’s decision to impose a prison sentence on David Reeves, of Lanner, Cornwall and said it sent out a clear message that people involved in dog-fighting face jail if caught.

Sentencing Reeves, 38, at Truro Magistrates’ Court, district judge John Woollard said: “If I went out on to the streets of Truro and started talking to people about dog-fighting, 90 per cent would think it died out in the Middle Ages, along with cock-fighting. They would be horrified to think that people are still engaged in such practices.

“I have got to discourage you and other people from taking part in this practice, which is abhorrent and is not going to be tolerated.

“I cannot give you any credit for a guilty plea because you did not plead guilty. Had you done so it might not have been necessary to send you into custody. This is behaviour that the court cannot tolerate.”

Last Thursday’s sentencing hearing followed a two-and-half-day trial last month, in which unemployed Reeves was convicted of five offences, including illegally possessing a dangerous dog, causing a dog fight, causing unnecessary suffering by permitting a dog fight and causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide a dog with reasonable medical care following a fight. He had denied all charges. For each charge Reeves received a three-month prison sentence to run concurrently.

The RSPCA brought the case after it raided Reeves’ semi-detached home and seized e-mails, pictures, two books entitled The History of Dog-Fighting and home videos, as well as the dogs.

The defendant had claimed during the trial that the dogs were not pit bulls and other evidence was part of a fake persona adopted to infiltrate the dog-fighting underworld to find out what had happened to a dog stolen from a friend in 1988.

The RSPCA called vet Alison Jane Morris-Robson as a prosecution expert on pit bulls. Ms Robson said that wounds found on the dogs, Red and Milly were clear evidence of dog fighting.

Injuries

However, defence expert, Crufts senior vet Trevor Turner said that although it would be fair to conclude that some of the injuries were the result of a fight, he would never dare say they were the result of organised dog fighting.

Ms Robson and Mr Turner inevitably disagreed on whether the dogs were of the pit bull ‘type’. Ms Robson said they were “substantially of the type” although Mr Turner said Milly was more of the English mastiff-type and Red was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The judge ordered the transfer of ownership of Reeves’ two dogs, now ruled to be pit bull types, and that his dog-fighting paraphernalia be confiscated.

RSPCA chief inspector Mike Butcher said: “We are very pleased with the finding, it sends out a clear message that people involved in dog-fighting risk going to prison.”

Inspector Paul Kempson added: “The district judge has recognised the severity of the offences. It is quite amazing that in the 21st century people are involved in this abhorrent activity which was banned in 1835. There is still an element of society involved in this activity, but one day they will be caught and face custody.”

He said it was the first case of its kind in Cornwall.

RSPCA prosecutor Trevor King said the case had cost the organisation £27,600, as well as £7,000 in kennel fees and other legal fees.

David Evans, for Reeves, said he was a man of previous good character who had fallen into the “subterranean” world of dog-fighting.

“Over the past seven years he has been the owner of a number of dogs and these have never been linked to any welfare issues before this particular eight to 12 months.

“The offences are not at the top of the scale of dog fighting. There were no organised fights in the true sense, in this case there were no money fights. There were no savage injuries or deaths, he did take his dogs to the vets when others might have kept everything quiet and allowed their dogs to suffer.

“This will never happen again, as his card has been marked, not just by the RSPCA, but by the public at large. He has been subjected to threats and adverse publicity.

“He was seduced by the subterranean glamour of this world, he was a man of good character until he was sucked into this unpleasant activity,” Mr Evans said.