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Greyhound killer caged

A CRUEL thug who shot a greyhound and cut off its ears has been jailed for six months and banned from keeping animals for life. Greyhound track groundsman Andrew Gough was sentenced by magistrates in Caerphilly, South Wales last month after he was convicted of cruelty to a Greyhound that raced under the name of Last Hope.

The dog was put down after an offence magistrates said was "totally unacceptable in a civilised society".

Gough, 28, from Tir-y-berth, Rhymney Valley, plans to appeal. Rod Smith, defending, said Gough was adamant he was not responsible for the dog's death.

As previously reported by OUR DOGS, the black male greyhound (later found to have been called Rusty or sometimes Charlie) was discovered on April 30th by a dog walker who heard him whimpering in agony in a rubbish tip on Fochriw Mountain in the Rhymney Valley, South Wales.

Rusty had been injured in several ways, including being shot in the head with a retractable bolt gun and his ears had been hacked off (presumably, because they contained tattoos that could identify him).Despite this appalling torture, Rusty was still alive - and wagging his tail - but his injuries were so extensive that he was later put to sleep by a vet.

In his last week of life, Rusty had been raced at all three greyhound tracks in South Wales and it is no coincidence that he was mutilated and dumped just a few miles away from two of those tracks.

A police investigation took place, with the involvement of several Greyhound rescue groups. Rusty’s owner was traced and, as the court heard, a truly horrific story of human cruelty and greed unfolded.

In their evidence to the court, both Rusty's owner, John Hurley, and trainer, Mark Emmett, admitted they called Gough in to kill him after he performed badly at the Warwick track on April 25th, due to a toe injury, which ended his racing career. The following Saturday, the trio went to race dogs at Hinckley, where Hurley paid Gough £10 for the killing while they were drinking in the bar.

After being shown photographs of Rusty's body by police, Hurley and Emmett admitted they had asked Gough to kill Rusty and that the dog in the photographs was him.

It emerged from the evidence that Gough had mutilated Rusty on Friday, April 30th and he had lain, suffering on the mountain, until being discovered two days later, on the Sunday.

Amazingly, despite their despicable behaviour in handing over Rusty to be killed, Hurley and Emmett could not be prosecuted, as it is not actually illegal for a person to have their own dog shot.

Rescue group Greyhound Action has received information that Gough was one of several greyhound ‘executioners’ in South Wales, who kill dogs for other owners and trainers, in order that they can avoid the cost of having them euthanased by a vet.

Gough failed to turn up for his trial at Blackwood Magistrates’ Court, South Wales, on Monday, November 22nd and the case went ahead in his absence, with the magistrates issuing a warrant for his arrest after finding him guilty. Magistrates refused a submission to reopen the case to hear more evidence and Gough was arrested and brought to court for sentencing on Wednesday, December 22nd. In a show of arrogance and disregard, Gough blew kisses at protesters on his arrival in court.

Victor Watkins, chairman of the bench, said: "This was deliberate and odious attack on a vulnerable dog, to end its life, and to render its identity unrecognisable.

‘Charlie clearly endured lengthy suffering in the failed attempt to take his life. This was carried out to such a shocking degree that it's totally unacceptable in a civilised society.’

Gough showed no emotion as he was sentenced to six months’; imprisonment – the maximum term allowed under current legislation for cruelty to animals.

Reports by both the All Party Group for Animal Welfare in the Welsh National Assembly and Greyhound Rescue Wales suggest that hundreds of greyhounds are discarded and killed, often by shooting, in the region every year, when no longer required by the racing industry.

Tony Peters of Greyhound Action told OUR DOGS: "Greyhound Action is calling on the Welsh National Assembly and the relevant local authorities to do all in their powers to close the three greyhound tracks in South Wales and so put an end to this annual slaughter.

"We have also renewed our call for the general public to boycott greyhound racing, as it is not just certain wicked individuals who are responsible for this appalling cruelty, but the greyhound racing industry as a whole, for creating a situation where dogs are regarded merely as money-making commodities and racing machines to be ruthlessly disposed of when considered no longer fit for the purpose.

"Andrew Gough and the owner and trainer involved in this case were associated with independent or "flapping" tracks in South Wales and the Midlands. There is no doubt that those involved in the running of the larger licensed tracks will seek, as they so often do, to pin the blame for the abandonment and slaughter of greyhounds on the independent tracks and refuse to take any responsibility for the appalling treatment of these dogs.

"However, it is the licensed tracks that must shoulder most of the blame, because, as much larger operations, they create the bulk of the demand for greyhounds to be bred, and most of the dogs running on independent tracks are those disposed of by licensed track trainers."

On the Sunday nearest to April 30th every year, Greyhound Action intend to hold a ‘Remembering Rusty’ event, consisting of a solemn remembrance ceremony at the place where he was found and an education day, along with stalls and information points at a nearby park. The first event is scheduled for May 1st 2005.