By Wendy Barlow
A sick gang who filmed their dogs attacking a badger and a cat on their mobile phones have been jailed.
Joshua Varey, 24, said to be the ringleader, bought and sold dogs for profit and kept and bred them to fight other animals.
He had injured and scarred dogs in cages outside at his home and was proud his animals were 'adept at fighting.'
He and accomplice Shaun Mullens, 22, both with a history of poaching, used Mullens' dog to bait a badger and the horrific attack was caught on video.
In a separate incident Paul Ashworth, 49, was filmed on Varey's phone climbing up two trees trying to shake a cat out of them, so that barking dogs below could seize it.
The fate of the cat is unknown as the video ends before the incident concludes.
The upsetting footage of the fight, in which the distressed animals were yelping, was played to Burnley magistrates court by the RSPCA prosecutor. Laughter, said to be from Varey, can be heard in the background.
Ashworth, of Hawley Street, has a long criminal record, including two convictions for animal cruelty and has served time. He admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal by trying to shake the cat out of a tree to barking dogs below, between June 2011 and July 2013 at Colne. He was jailed for 76 days and banned from owning or keeping animals for five years.
Groundworker Shaun Mullens, 22, of Leach Street, who has a conviction for poaching rabbits and Joshua Varey, 24, care of Duke Street, who also has a lengthy criminal record, both admitted causing an animal fight to take place, between dogs and a badger, at Colne, between June 2011 and July 2013. Varey was sent to custody for 126 days while Mullens got 114 days.
Both were disqualified from keeping or owning animals for 10 years. The bench chairman told the pair their actions were a clear attempt to kill or torture a badger.
The hearing was told the defendants, who live in Colne, are said to have been subjected to abuse on social media since the case was first reported in the press. It has cost the RSPCA £24,000 to bring the prosecution.
Paul Taylor, prosecuting, said the defendants had a shared interest in setting dogs on animals.
The two separate incidents in the charges were filmed on a mobile phone, which was found in Varey's bedroom, when it was searched in May 2013. Another phone discovered at his house had two videos on, close together in time.
One phone yielded early morning text messages and pictures.
One message read: 'Spoke to Shaun. He wants to come up this weekend, mate. Got a few holes we can do."
The prosecutor said: "We suggest that this is talking about about putting dogs down holes to get at animals." A text the same day, also sent from Varey's phone, asked :" What time are you home? You coming out with terriers later ?" Another asked: "Are you going digging?"
Mr Taylor said a photo showed Ashworth holding a scarred dog. There was also one shot of a man with a dog which had blood around its mouth.
The prosecutor said: "The obvious inference is that the dog has recently been involved in an animal fight." Another showed a dog and a fox cub being held. Mr Taylor said: "Again, we say this is evidence of the defendant Varey's fascination with using dogs to fight and cause injury to other animals."
Mr Taylor said Varey kept dogs outside in cages.
He said: "They are kept and bred to fight other animals in order to give pleasure to people like these defendants."
"Text messages to and from Varey indicate he took pleasure in his dogs being adept at fighting. He and the community he seems to belong to have no time for what he calls timid."
The prosecutor said when interviewed about the cat incident, Ashworth claimed he was doing what he was told. He said he was acting the clown, he was drunk or close to it. Mr Taylor said the cat was forced to run quickly up another tree to get away from the dogs. The cat would have been terrified.
Mr Taylor said when Varey was questioned, he didn't deny any responsibility for the film on his phone. He made no comment. Mullens admitted it was his dog in the badger fight video.
Speaking after the case, RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport said: “The case is probably just the tip of the iceberg. These men were responsible for a vicious, deliberate and vindictive level of animal cruelty.
“We’ll never know whether the cat or badger in these clips survived, or whether they were torn to shreds by the dogs set upon them.
“Hopefully the sentence will act as a strong deterrent to anyone else who thinks they can commit such barbaric acts of cruelty and get away with it." Video.