5th March 2018
(Updated 1:24pm 5th March 2018)
A man has appeared in court after posting a video online in which he tried to force a ferret and a rat to fight.
Joshua Varey of Blascomy Square, Colne, in Lancashire, appeared at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court on Friday (2 March) where he was sentenced to a 16-week jail term, suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work, given an eight-week curfew and ordered to pay £250 in costs. He was disqualified from keeping all animals for 15 years.
At a previous court date (9 February) he pleaded guilty to being present at an animal fight and causing unnecessary suffering to a ferret and a rat, both offences under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as an additional charge of breaching a disqualification order.
A second man, Howard Lewin (DoB: 20/12/67) of Dickson Street, Colne, also appeared alongside Varey at court last month where he pleaded guilty to attempting to cause an animal fight, being present at an animal fight, and causing unnecessary suffering to a ferret and rat. He was sentenced (on 9 February) to a 12-month community order with a rehabilitation requirement.
“We were alerted to a really disturbing video that had been posted on Varey’s Facebook page,” RSPCA special investigation officer, Jason Bowles, said.
“In the video, a pet ferret is pitched against a wild rat in a hutch and they are urged to fight. The men are clearly encouraging the animals to fight and are shouting at the ferret, willing it on to attack the rat.
“The rat is frantically trying to escape, climbing the bars of the hutch and looking for a way out.
“The men tip and shake the hutch to try to encourage the animals to fight. There are a few clashes but generally the terrified animals cower in separate corners.
“In the video, one of the men can be heard shouting at the rat: ‘That’s disgusting, I hate them, f***ing rodent b***ards.
“We launched an investigation into the video once it had been brought to our attention but never found the rat or the ferret so, sadly, we don’t know what happened to them.
“However, we will not stand for this sort of disgusting behaviour and cruelty towards animals. We hope this case serves to show that we take online videos showing cruelty to animals very seriously and, where offences have been committed, we will take appropriate action.”
In addition to these offences, Varey was also charged with breaching a disqualification
“In 2014, Mr Varey was disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years, having been convicted of animal fighting offences under the Animal Welfare Act,” SOU inspector Chris Heyworth said. “That ban is still in place.
“He came to our attention again after Cumbria Police were called to a field to reports of two men – one of whom was Mr Varey – stuck in the mud in their vehicle. They were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Deer Act 1991 and a mobile phone was seized.
“Material from that phone was passed to Lancashire Police who were investigating wildlife crime offences with RSPCA inspectors. Photos, video and texts on the phone suggested the men were still involved in wildlife crimes and, therefore, a warrant was executed at a property in Colne, Lancashire, on 28 September.
“Despite his ban, we found two dogs – both lurcher types – at the property. One of the dogs belonged to someone else but one was quite clearly his. We also found lots of evidence on a phone that showed he was participating in the keeping of dogs.”
The dog – called Nell – was seized and placed into RSPCA care.
Sgt Damian Pemberton, Lancashire Constabulary’s Rural Policing, Wildlife and Heritage Crime co-ordinator, said: “This sentence is testimony to the hard work of our rural officers who are committed to putting an end to the unnecessary suffering of animals.
“Those who mistreat animals and take part in these types of cruel activities will be tracked down and brought to justice.
“Josh Varey is a well-known animal abuser with previous convictions for animal cruelty.
“His conviction and sentence sends a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated and our dedicated rural officers will work hard to bring those responsible to justice.”
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