Three people including a 15-year-old boy have been arrested by police in Bristol investigating badger baiting and hunting with dogs.
Officers from Avon and Somerset police swooped on four South Bristol addresses yesterday under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
They rescued nine dogs from two properties in Filwood, one in Windmill Hill and one in Whitchurch, and seized a cache of weapons which included five air rifles, a hunting knife and a long bow.
Four of the dogs, which were lurcher and terrier breeds, had suffered injuries and were being tested by vets to see if they were caused by badgers.
Two male teenagers aged 15 and 17 and a 28-year-old man were arrested and are currently being held in custody.
The swoop was part of a joint investigation into badger baiting by the RSPCA and police, with the spectacle involving dogs fighting badgers banned nearly 180 years ago.
Sergeant Trevor Sweeting, from Avon and Somerset police, said: “We take offences against wildlife extremely seriously and working together with the RSCPA will continue to take action against the individuals responsible.
“I would urge anyone with any information on this type of crime to get in touch. All information received will be treated in confidence and acted upon.”
Badger baiting was made illegal in 1835 and is currently an offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The sport involves badgers being dragged from their sett and then made to fight dogs to the death.
Badly injured badgers are sometimes ‘finished off’ with shotguns but are also left to be ripped apart by the aggressive dogs.
In recent years there has been an increase in the sport with campaign group Digging Out estimating 10,000 of the peaceful animals are caught, tortured or killed by huntsman with dogs each year.
Badger baiters have also adapted their game by breeding a new type of dog known as a bull lurcher – which packs the jaw power of a pit bull and the size and agility of a lurcher.