Man at centre of illegal dog fighting ring is jailed

Police and RSPCA officers today said they had smashed Merseyside’s worst dogfighting ring after a man was jailed.

William Smith was convicted of allowing illegal dog-fighting bouts at his secluded home in Ribblers Lane, Kirkby, despite claiming to be a dog lover.

Huyton magsitrates heard that searches of the property revealed blood-spattered sticks used to prise animals apart, fitness schedules, a treadmill and weighing scales and boards used to construct fighting pits.

Smith, 39, also had three heavily-scarred illegal pit bull terriers at the property, which were taken away and put down.

RSPCA officers and police said it was the worst case they had seen in Merseyside and the third fighting pit they had closed after a nationwide operation codenamed Gazpacho.

Officer Michael Butler said: “It’s incredible that in 2005 we are looking at things which have been banned since 1835.

“The magistrate took on board the conspiratorial nature of the offence – dog fights are planned and organised for months and dogs suffer at the end.”

Bernard Phelan, prosecuting, said the treadmill and weighing scales found in a shed were used to ensure dogs kept to weight divisions and were fighting fit.

The court also heard that boards used to construct a pit for fighting had blood on them that was linked through DNA tests to an Oxfordshire dog whose owner had been convicted for dog fighting.

Smith denied allowing illegal dog-fighting and denied that his home was known in fighting circles as “Lion Heart Kennels”.

He said he used the treadmill to exercise his dogs after seeing the idea on Blue Peter.

Smith, a warehouse worker and fork lift truck driver, admitted he was fascinated by American pit bulls and was interested in dog fighting.

But he claimed he was a “dog lover” and family man who banned fights after his sons were born.

Sentencing Smith to four months, district judge Trevor Chatalier said: “There was clearly a high level of organisation and training.

“And I can’t overlook the high level of cruelty to dogs.”

Andy McWilliam, Merseyside police wildlife officer, said dog fighting was an organised crime often linked to drugs and weapons.

Vicious sport banned since 1835

Dog fighting was banned in 1835 but, like cock fighting and badger baiting, it is still going on today.

Two dogs are put together in a “pit” to fight and they cannot escape or stop – as they could in the wild – when one proves it is dominant.

Their aggression is increased by their owners giving them drugs and the animals can tear each other to pieces.

Typically, between five and 30 people watch a fight and up to £1,000 can be bet on the outcome.

The serious injuries suffered by the dogs are often treated by the owners because if they took them to a vet suspicions would be aroused.

Fighting dogs are usually trained from a very early age and their fighting careers can last from around the age of three months to age seven.

Blood-stained sticks, used to prise apart the animals’ jaws, chewed tyres and treadmills can be indicators of dog fighting, and the RSPCA says anyone who hears or suspects it is going on should contact them.