A man has been convicted of using his dogs to kill a fox in the first case under the Hunting Act to be brought to court by the RSPCA.
Paul McMullen, of Bootle, Merseyside, was arrested after a woman reported a group of men with dogs digging into a badger set in the Cheshire countryside. He had denied hunting a wild mammal with a dog but was found guilty by magistrates in Chester.
McMullen, 36, was fined £750 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs. Chester Magistrates' Court was told that RSPCA officers found the dead vixen when they went to inspect the disturbed set.
A pathologist told the court that the animal died from multiple deep wounds caused by dog bites.
McMullen, who represented himself in court, denied he had gone out to intentionally hunt badgers or foxes.
Two other men and a youth were sentenced for their part in the crime at hearings last year.
Paul Kelly, 21, of Norris Green, Liverpool, pleaded guilty on November 6 to hunting a wild animal with a dog and was ordered to pay £500 in fines and £2,896.09 costs.
Mark Walsh, 18, of Netherton, Liverpool, admitted a charge of hunting a wild animal with a dog on October 16. He was fined £500, ordered to pay costs of £2,896.07 and forfeit a number of spades and locator collars. His dog, a tan and white terrier, was also confiscated.
The juvenile, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty at Sefton Juvenile Court on October 16 to the same charge and was sentenced on November 3 to an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £500.
The RSPCA, which spent about £12,000 to bring the prosecution, was satisfied with the outcome.
Ch Insp Ian Briggs of the RSPCA said: ‘We are extremely pleased with the awards that were given out by the court today.
‘We think it sends out a clear message to these people that the hunting of wild mammals with dogs is no longer acceptable.’
The first prosecution under the Act followed a case brought by the League Against Cruel Sports in Devon last year.