THE leader of an illegal badger baiting ring has been banned from owning dogs for life after being convicted under new animal cruelty laws.
Andrew Mullen was found to have a haul of photographs showing images of dogs fighting badgers, foxes and deer when his home was raided by police and animal welfare officers following an undercover Scottish SPCA investigation.
The officers taking part in the raid also discovered five seriously injured dogs in the garden of his home in Uddingston in Lanarkshire.
Mullen, 37, who pled guilty to animal cruelty charges when he first appeared in court in January, is the first person in Scotland to be convicted of keeping dogs for baiting wild animals since the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 came into effect.
Yesterday, when he appeared for sentence at Lanark Sheriff Court, Mullen was banned from owning animals for life. Sheriff Nikola Stewart also imposed a six-month curfew order on Mullen and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service.
The court was told that Mullen, who is unemployed, had organised illegal dog fights against foxes, badgers and deer and kept five dogs for the purposes of animal fighting.
His home in Uddingston was raided in March 2010 and officers discovered a laptop with 340 photographs showing Mullen and his associates goading dogs into fighting and attacking other animals. Mullen was also pictured holding up dead foxes or laying them on the ground, apparently as trophies.
Five dogs, three lurchers, a brown terrier-type puppy and a terrier bitch were found with “terrible” injuries in kennels in Mullen’s back garden. A veterinary examination revealed that three of Mullen’s five dogs had injuries consistent with badger baiting.
Mullen had denied actively using his dogs to fight badgers, but accepted that he allowed others to use them and that he knew the dogs he kept were to be used on badgers.
He admitted breaching the 2006 Animal Health and Welfare Act by keeping five dogs for the purposes of animal fighting between 1 January 2009 and 31 March 2010.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn welcomed the lifetime ban imposed by Sheriff Stewart.
“We are delighted that Andrew Mullen has been convicted of keeping dogs for the purpose of fighting following our investigation and that a life ban on keeping animals has been imposed,” he said.
“It is very encouraging to see that Scotland’s animal welfare legislation is being used successfully for the protection of both domestic and wild animals. This result sends out an important message that keeping dogs for the purposes of animal fighting is illegal and will not be tolerated.”
He added: “Badger baiting is a heinous crime against badgers. We will continue to actively target badger baiters and we urge anyone with information on those involved in this horrific blood sport to call us, even anonymously, to raise any concerns they might have.”