A man who bought cats online to use as bait for his dogs to attack and kill has been jailed and banned from owning or keeping animals following a Scottish SPCA investigation.
Mark Cuthbert, 42, of Thornyflat Place, Ayr, was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment and given a ten-year ban on owning or keeping any animal. He appeared at Ayr Sheriff Court on 2 October where he pled guilty to keeping dogs for the purpose of an animal fight and killing a cat at home and at another premises.
Cuthbert had been using the online selling site, Gumtree, to purchase cats for his dogs to kill.
The Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit (SIU) received intelligence in March 2018 that Cuthbert had dogs for animal fighting. The SIU obtained a warrant to search Cuthbert’s address and, upon inspection, found his pets had injuries consistent with animal fighting and suspected he had been self-medicating his dogs to avoid drawing attention to his illegal activities.
Investigators seized an electronic device which contained video and images of animal fights. This included footage of Cuthbert’s dogs killing badgers and domestic cats. Items in the clips matched animal fighting paraphernalia discovered at his home. Among the items seized at the address were tracking collars, nets, live animal traps, syringes, superglue and pet carriers. DNA analysis of these supported the case that many of the items were used for animal fighting.
The dogs involved in the case are a black and white patterdale terrier, Billy, and two brown bitch patterdale terriers called Digger and Tally.
Cuthbert pled guilty to keeping dogs, cats and a rat for an animal fight contrary to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 under Section 23 (1) (a), for procuring cats for the purpose of animal fighting and arranging, participating and causing animal fights to take place under Section 23 (2) of the Act.
Commenting on the investigation and court case, a Scottish SPCA undercover special investigation unit (SIU) officer said, “This is a truly horrific case of animal cruelty, where we suspect dozens of animals have suffered mentally and physically at the hands of Mark Cuthbert. His inhumane treatment of animals is completely unacceptable.”
“We investigate reports of animal fights every week and the imagery and videos we discovered on his phone are some of the most depraved and upsetting we have seen. One harrowing video shows the three dogs attacking a domestic cat in a field which is fighting for its life. It’s clear the cat was caused horrendous suffering and many of the cats he purchased will have suffered long, torturous deaths.
“Cuthbert had been picking up the cats for his dogs to attack from the online selling site, Gumtree.
“After contacting Gumtree, we found correspondence between Cuthbert and people who had listed their cats on the site which led us to believe large numbers of cats were uplifted from pet owners who trusted their cats were going to a good, safe home.
“As well as the cats he purchased under false pretence, his own dogs have been treated appallingly. When we visited Cuthbert, two of his dogs had very obvious facial injuries and scars to the face, nose and jaw. Digger had a healed injury to the lower lip which had caused a v-shaped deformity and Billy was very aggressive when approached.
“If you are using an online service to find a new home for, or sell, your pet, please be vigilant and ensure your pet is going to a safe environment. If you are suspicious, do not continue with the sale and notify the Scottish SPCA as soon as possible.”
The Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit are experts in investigating animal fighting offences and rely on information from the public to continue to put a stop to this horrific activity. All information shared with the Scottish SPCA can be treated with confidentiality and can be reported to the animal helpline on 03000 999 999.