Three men have been jailed after capturing themselves on camera committing sustained and horrific levels of animal cruelty in a case the RSPCA’s investigating officer described as “the most disturbing” he has handled in 23 years.
Mark Wesley Smith (pictured below right), Liam Patrick Ardito and Gary Cannon, all from Grimsby, admitted setting their dogs on a trapped fox in a sickening cage fight on the town’s golf course, where they had posed as pest controllers.
District judge Daniel Curtis expressed his horror at the shocking levels of “organised, methodical cruelty against defenceless disadvantaged animals.”
He added: “The offenders displayed sickening pleasure in the torture and death of wild animals.
“All participants engaged in infliction on wild and their own animals cruelty to an extent and level beyond that envisaged by the sentencing guidelines.”
The RSPCA launched their investigation, with the assistance of the League Against Cruel Sports and Humberside Police, after obtaining intelligence on the three men and their illegal activities. Warrants were carried out at the homes of the three men on 8 August last year, when a number of cameras, computers and mobile telephones were seized.
A search of Ardito’s home also revealed a pit that could be created out of wooden boards and carpets, for use to stage animal fights.
Detailed analysis of these items provided a detailed timeline of the trio’s campaign of cruelty. Among the photos were images of Ardito scaling a tree and lowering sparrow hawk chicks in bags after he had taken them from their nests. Others show Smith brazenly posing with a dead rook and curlew, as well as with a dead fox.
Smith, 53, of Broadway, admitted 13 charges, including causing animal fights between his dogs and foxes and a badger and causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. He also admitted possession of dead wild birds (a rook and a curlew) and a trap that could be used to catch wild birds, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Ardito, 33, who is currently in custody for unrelated matters, admitted 12 charges including causing animal fights between dogs on foxes and badgers and causing unnecessary suffering to foxes and dogs, both contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Cannon, 27, (pictured left, posing with dead foxes) who is also currently in prison for unrelated matters, pleaded guilty to five charges. These included causing an animal fight between a dog and a fox, causing a fight between a dog and a badger and causing unnecessary suffering to foxes. All charges he admitted were in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Inspector Harrison added: “The RSPCA is investigating an increasing amount of cruelty to wildlife through the use of dogs to attack and kill wild mammals. This increase is of great concern and we would urge the public to contact us if they know anything about such cruel criminality.”
He said: “This is a proud day for the League and RSPCA. We are really pleased to have been able to offer evidence in this case, helping secure these convictions.”
Anyone who wishes to report animal cruelty to the RSPCA can do so by calling 0300 1234 999.
The RSPCA is only able to investigate cases such as this and bring them before the court thanks to generous support from members of the public.
If you would like to help the RSPCA, you can give £3 now by texting HELP to 78866 (Texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).