Two Gainsborough men have been banned from keeping dogs for five years after they pleaded guilty to offences relating to badger baiting in a Nottinghamshire village.
Murphy Thorne and Dale Shields admitted interfering with a badger sett and attempting to kill a badger, when they appeared at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard how the pair were spotted by a gamekeeper on land near Beckingham on April 7, who suspected they were badger baiting – which is where a dog is sent into a sett to flush out the badger and attack it for the handler to then dig the badger out and kill it or take it away for it to be killed at a later date.
The gamekeeper alerted the police who arrested Thorne and Shields close to the scene. The court heard how Thorne told police: “I don’t get paid for doing it, but do it as a sport and it is something I enjoy.”
A six-foot hole had been dug into the badger sett and both men had spades. They also had a net which is often used to capture badgers.
Two dogs, wearing radio collars, were also seized from the men by police and were taken to a nearby vets in Retford for treatment as they had facial and dental injuries, which a veterinary expert said were consistent with them being involved in a fight. One dog was in a collapsed state at the scene due to exhaustion.
RSPCA inspector Keith Ellis said: “The gamekeeper said he could see the men jump into a six-foot hole which they had dug down into the badger sett so he called the police.
“When they attended the scene it was clear that the sett had been interfered with and there were spades nearby.
“The dogs were wearing radio-collars which are used so the owners can locate where they are underground and when the dogs locate the badger the handlers dig down and usually kill the badger.”
An expert badger witness concluded the badger sett was active and had been disturbed. No dead badger was recovered, but Inspector Ellis said it was possible the badger had died in the sett.
In addition to the ban on keeping dogs, Thorne, of Gray Street, Gainsborough, and Shields, of Laburnum Avenue, Gainsborough, were handed an 18-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months. They were both ordered to pay £300 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
The forfeiture of the dogs to the RSPCA was ordered and the animal charity will re-home them.
A third man denied the offences and his trial will take place at a later date.