Wives and girlfriends with partners who are involved in badger baiting have been urged to come forward by a charity that says the crime is becoming more prevalent.
The Scottish SPCA claims that badger baiting — pitting the woodland animals against dogs — is predominantly conducted by men.
With reports of an increase in the “barbaric” crime across the country, the charity is now calling on those closest to the criminals to report offences.
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, “We want to speak to the people who are close to the perpetrators because they are the often the only ones who will ever be exposed to this dreadful crime.
“Some of the information we receive about animal fighting comes from female partners, friends and family members who are quite rightly disgusted to discover that their husband, boyfriend, brother or son is involved in such an extremely cruel activity.
“Many are distraught when a partner returns home with their dog suffering from terrible injuries. The baiters will regularly self-treat the dogs rather than take them to a vet and be exposed. This can result in a dog’s suffering being prolonged and in some cases the animals simply die from their injuries and infection or indeed are killed by their owner.”
Mr Flynn said that baiters were unlikely to walk their dogs in public as the injuries would be very obvious to the general public.
He said: “The dogs we recover from our searches tend to be severely scarred around the muzzle and face; many have damage to their eyes and broken teeth and in some cases have injuries relating to what is called ‘de-gloving’ of the skin from the face. Badgers are exceptionally strong creatures and can inflict serious and often fatal injuries on a dog.
“Badger baiting is abhorrent and has no place in modern society. Both the dogs and the badgers will fight until they are horrifically injured or dead. How anyone can derive pleasure from such an activity is beyond belief, but it is happening here in Scotland.
“We are urging anyone who has information relating to this crime to search their conscience and contact our animal helpline on 03000 999 999. All information is treated in the strictest confidence and can be left anonymously.”
Animal fighting is a criminal offence under the Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland) 2006. Anyone found guilty of organising or being involved in an animal fight can expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or life. Maximum sentences include up to 12 months in prison, a £20,000 fine or both.
The Scottish SPCA said it has received intelligence relating to badger baiting activities taking place across the country, but most commonly in Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Lanarkshire and the Scottish Borders.