A HUSBAND and wife team who illegally ran a ‘commercial operation’ breeding fighting dogs were each sentenced to six months in jail last week under the terms of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
Ricardo Byfield, 27, and Lisa Harvey, 34, ran an illegal stud 'farm' of American Pit Bull Terriers from their one bedroom maisonette home in Northolt, Middlesex.
The dogs, some of which were described as 'Pit Bull royalty' because of the quality of their stamina and august pedigrees, were used for breeding and fighting.
When police raided the Byfield's home in August last year they discovered a 'shanty town' arrangement of dog runs in the urine soaked garden.
Officers found 26 dogs kept in cages stacked in almost every room in the house and in the outdoor pens.
Of the 26 dogs seized 21 were banned Pit Bulls. The dogs were found covered in scars from previous dog fights and some were marked on documents as ‘Champion’ or ‘Grand Champion’ - meaning they had won several fights.
One dog named Zulu, which was covered in battle scars and kept in the peak of fitness, would have been worth between £5,000 and £6,000 ‘to the right buyer’.
Puppies aged between two weeks and four months old were also rescued in the August raid. After the dogs were seized, one bitch gave birth to a litter of five puppies and then killed them.
A homemade treadmill that officers believe was used to exercise the dogs was also recovered from the pair’s home.
Sentencing Byfield and Harvey at Ealing Magistrates’ Court last week, Jeffrey Bonn, said: ‘It is very clear you were both involved actively in breeding fighting dogs.
‘There was the equipment for training dogs and for breeding dogs. It has been going on for a substantial period of time - four and a half years.
‘These dogs were not kept in decent conditions in any way. It was cruel to keep these animals in small cages.
‘We owe the public the right to be protected from the possibility of these animals escaping, posing untold harm to the general public.’
An order was made for 19 Pit Bulls to be destroyed, but seven puppies that were born and survived in custody were spared because of a legal technicality. Two dogs had died following an outbreak of parvovirus at the kennels they were held in.
Police said it was costing them £250 a day to hold the dogs and had already spent £85,000 on housing and feeding them over the period since they had been held.
Describing the raid Sergeant Ian McParland, attached to the Metropolitan Police's Central Operations Unit, said: ‘There were dogs in every corner in cages. There were two dogs in each cage in the living room. The bedroom had four cages stacked two by two.’
He described a ‘shanty town’ of warrens and kennels for the dogs in the back garden. He also said during the raid one of the dogs escaped and badly injured itself as it tried to attack another dog in a neighbouring cage.
He said: ‘These were Pit Bull royalty, some of them came from Ed Reid's lines, who is credited with bringing in the first Pit Bulls to the UK.
‘Some of the dogs were from Irish Jerry's and Farmer's Boys stock, which are both very well known fighting lines.’
Despite the overcrowding, he said the dogs were kept in clean conditions and many were in excellent health. Harvey and Byfield would have spent up to £600 a month on dog food.
Despite first telling police the dogs were safe Irish Staffordshire Bull Terriers, a euphemism for Pit Bulls, Byfield pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count of breeding Pit Bull terriers.
He also admitted 19 counts of owning a dog banned under Section 1 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. He received six months for each of the offences to be served concurrently.
Byfield, who was banned from owning a dog for life, was ordered pay £500 prosecution costs and £250 for having the dogs put down.
Harvey, who admitted the offences, was sentenced for two months jail for possessing a banned dog and six months to be served concurrently for one charge of breeding illegal Pit Bulls. She was ordered to pay £250 towards the costs of putting the dogs down.
Both were banned from keeping dogs for the rest of her life.
A 21-year-old man from Wembley was also arrested under the Dangerous Dogs Act but was not prosecuted because there was no evidence to link him to the offence.
The other five dogs that were seized - a Rottweiler, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and three Dogue de Bordeaux type animals - were returned to Byfield and Harvey, but will now be rehomed, due to the lifetime dog ownership ban imposed on the pair.