Four men have been jailed after filming their dogs during a horrific attack on a badger sett and a fox near Nantwich.

One RSPCA inspector said the attacks, which took place in Hankelow, were the “most appalling act of cruelty and barbaric fighting” he had ever seen.

Reece Welsh, 22, Ryan Kennedy, 24, John Daly, 30, all from Liverpool and Daniel Ratchford, 29, from Standish, were jailed and banned from keeping dogs by South Cheshire Magistrates.

The four men were spotted acting suspiciously near an active badger sett on land near to Brookfield Golf Course in Hankelow in February 2013.

Police were called and stopped the men in their vehicle in which they found six dogs, some of which had serious injuries, and hunting paraphernalia.

The men said their dogs had attacked a fox accidentally while they were out catching rabbits and showed the police the fox’s body.

Although they were alleged to be rabbiting, no footage of this, or rabbit carcasses were found during the investigation.

The RSPCA was called in to investigate, and a phone was seized from Daly and examined.

It contained photographs of a fox being attacked by a dog in an animal fight, photos showing a badger being attacked by one of the dogs, and video footage of another dog attacking the fox, which was in its last gasps of life.

They were dated on the same day the men were found at the badger sett.

RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes, who led the investigation, returned to the scene and discovered the sett which the men had been found near was active with badgers and it was clear that “digging” had been identified.

A second dead fox was also found in a hedgerow nearby.

RSPCA - dead fox after attack

The men all claimed in interview they had been “rabbiting” with permission, and a fox had come into the area which the dogs had pursued down a badger sett.

But speaking after the case, Insp Joynes said: “These men had set out for a day’s killing spree – and this was nothing to do with “pest control” of rabbits.

“The footage and photographs were probably the worst examples of animal cruelty I have ever seen.

“This is the most appalling act of cruelty and barbaric fighting I have ever come across and it was just so sad to see this poor fox literally being ripped apart.

“People who take part in such despicable acts of cruelty for their own pleasure need to know that we are doing all we can to seek them out and bring them before the courts – it is not something we can tolerate in today’s society.”

Daly was sentenced to 22 weeks, Welsh to 16 weeks, and Ratchford and Kennedy to 12 weeks imprisonment.

They were all banned from keeping dogs for life and ordered to pay £200 costs.

The van and equipment used by the men was also ordered to be confiscated and their dogs signed over to the RSPCA.

Daly and Welsh had pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett by causing a dog to enter the sett contrary to Section 3 subsection (d) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Daly also pleaded guilty to an offence of interfering with a badger sett by damaging it contrary to Section 3 subsection (a) of the Protection of Badgers Act and also an offence of causing unnecessary suffering by causing a fight to take place between a dog and a fox.

Welsh, Ratchford and Kennedy also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a tan and white Lurcher dog by causing the dog to fight with a fox and failing to take such steps to prevent that happening.

(All pictures courtesy of RSPCA and not to be reproduced)

RSPCA - dog injuries in Hankelow case

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