A man from Kent has been jailed for causing animal fights between dogs and wild mammals, after his wife accidentally called 999 and unwittingly revealed her husband’s cruel hobby.
Police officers spotted injured terriers – some with their noses almost entirely ripped off – in an elaborate kennel set-up at the back of Steven Alston’s home near Canterbury when they traced an unanswered emergency from his wife’s mobile phone to the couple’s address.
Alston, 49, was banned from keeping animals for life and sentenced to 160 days custody.
He appeared at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, where he was also ordered to pay £10,000 costs.
District judge Justin Barron said he would have passed an even stronger sentence if the law had allowed it.
Inspector Cliff Harrison, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “Using terriers to hunt and fight wild animals is a sickening form of deliberate and premeditated animal cruelty.
“It isn’t just the animals targeted that suffer sickening injuries, but also the dogs used in this barbaric activity.
“These injured dogs will have been put underground in the likes of badger setts and fox earths, where they would have endured the sort of encounters that left both animals with huge trauma wounds.
“No animal deserves to be used and treated in this way. I am pleased that the court clearly took a similarly strong view and has prevented the defendant from owning a dog ever again.”
Response officers from Kent Police visited Alston’s home on 6 November 2013 to investigate the unanswered 999 call made from his wife’s mobile.
When there was no answer at the property the officers looked over the rear garden fence and saw injured dogs kept in an elaborate kennel set-up.
The response officers immediately contacted the Kent Police rural liaison team and the RSPCA who carried out a search which uncovered paraphernalia, including digging equipment, an adapted treadmill typically used to train dogs on and veterinary medication.
Many photos of injured dogs were found at the property along with a number of diaries in which Alston described in detail multiple fights between dogs and foxes and other wild mammals over several decades.
Eight terrier type dogs, including adults and juveniles, were seized by police and later signed over to the RSPCA.
Alston subsequently pleaded guilty to one charge of causing an animal fight to take place and one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to three of the dogs by failing to get proper veterinary treatment for their injuries.
Seven of the eight dogs seized as part of the investigation have now successfully been rehomed by the RSPCA.
Major (pictured above, with his injuries and right, in his new home after surgery) was one of the dogs seized from Alston. He was suffering from horrific facial injuries and had lost part of his nose and much of the skin around his muzzle and jaw.IMGP1098.jpg
He was successfully rehomed after his rehabilitation and treatment by the RSPCA’s staff. One of the charity’s vets was able to treat some of his injuries using reconstructive surgery and he is now living a healthy and happy life.
Inspector Harrison added: “I am pleased that we have been able to put an end to this man’s activities, but what is most satisfying is that his dogs have now been given a new life, free from the cruelty they were previously subjected to.
“It is this complete cycle of rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming that makes the RSPCA’s work so important and why we must continue to investigate those people who think animal cruelty is acceptable.”
PC Preston Frost, of Kent Police’s rural liaison team, said: “Using dogs to fight wild mammals has no place in a civilised society and is a particularly cruel thing to put an animal of any type through.
“Our officers are specially trained to notice the signs of such unlawful activity, and it was immediately clear from the injuries Alston’s dogs had suffered just what he had subjected them to.
“We in the rural liaison team are proud of our close working partnership with the RSPCA and are pleased to have been able to help them secure this important conviction. What Alston did is completely unacceptable and today’s sentence should act as a warning to anyone thinking about following in his footsteps.”