A British judge handed down fines and suspended prison sentences this week for three men who pleaded guilty to running an illegal dog fighting operation near East Lancashire, England.
The Mirror reports Darren Wheatcroft, 48, pleaded guilty to attempting to arrange a fight between illegal pit bulls, while Wheatcroft’s son, Callan Wheatcroft, 22, and co-defendant Simon Whitworth, 34, both pleaded guilty to training the illegal dogs for fighting.
According to a January story from the Daily Mail, the charges came following an investigation, conducted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or RSPCA, which uncovered the dogs as well as evidence that the animals were being trained for fighting purposes.
“There are six dogs mentioned in these proceedings, five of which, following a seizure, were found to be pit bull dogs and banned by the Dangerous Dog Act,” Prosecutor Chris Wyatt said following the investigation. “The [investigative] team found possession of items used in dog fighting. A tread mill was found which is used for training dogs.
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“This is not like you see in a gym," Wyatt added. "It is a manual one. There were syringes and scalpels. This is stuff you would not expect to find in a normal person’s house."
Two of the dogs were reportedly found at Whitworth’s home, while the other four dogs were kept in the home shared by Darren and Callan Wheatcroft.
Prior to pleading guilty, the three men maintained their innocence, despite a reported 29 witnesses for the prosecution who were lined up to testify against them.
District Judge James Clarke denounced dog fighting, and the illegal breeds, this week as he handed down the sentences.
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"These dogs are illegal for a reason,” Clarke said. “They are dangerous in the eyes of Parliament. Their characteristics and their training can lead to significant physical injury to one another and they are dangerous to the public.
"I shouldn't need to remind you that animals such as this have attacked members of your community,” the judge added. “While not holding you responsible for that, you have knowingly involved yourself in an industry that perpetuates cruelty and criminality in relation to animals.”
Clarke gave Darren Wheatcroft a 20-week prison sentence which was suspended for 18 months, as well as a roughly $22,000 fine.
Whitworth received the same fine and a 16-week sentence, also suspended for 18 months.
Clarke slapped Callan Wheatcroft with a roughly $15,000 fine and the same suspended 16-week sentence as Whitworth.
All five dogs of the illegal breed were ordered to be euthanized. The fate of the sixth dog, who was reportedly not of an illegal breed, is unclear.