Five men have been found guilty of wildlife and animal cruelty offences after being caught badger baiting by police in East Yorkshire.
Andrew Booth, Kirk McGarry, John Horner, George Horner and Richard Willey were each convicted of wilfully attempting to take a badger, interfering with a badger sett by entering a dog into the sett and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
It follows a report received by police from a concerned member of the public on the afternoon of December 30, 2017 when a group of men with dogs were seen digging into a badger sett at Melton, East Yorkshire.
A number of officers including several wildlife crime officers quickly attended and found four men continuing to dig into what appeared to the officers to be an active badger sett.
The men claimed that two of the terrier dogs they had been using to catch rats nearby had run away and entered the holes. They denied knowing it was a badger sett and stuck to their story throughout the investigation.
McGarry, 50, of Doncaster; Willey, 46, of Hull, and George Horner, 26, and John Horner, 19, both of Bridlington, were arrested at the scene.
Andrew Booth, 44, of Doncaster, was later identified as having been at the scene but ran off when he saw officers approaching.
They were convicted at Beverley Magistrates' Court on Friday and will be sentenced on January 23.
Equipment relating to the offences has already been seized, while a number of dogs seized by police will be rehomed.
Humberside Police said the men had four terrier dogs with them at the time of the offence, two of which had entered the badger sett.
The dogs - Paddy and Dizzy - emerged the next day with serious injuries inflicted to their muzzles consistent with injuries caused by a badger defending itself.
They were also wearing locator collars which are used to locate the dogs underground once they have made contact with a badger so that both the dog and badger can be retrieved from the sett.
Two other younger terriers were also present but appeared not to have entered the sett.
All of the dogs were safeguarded and have been housed in police kennels until the trial took place.
Chief Inspector Iain Dixon, of Humberside Police, today said: “Badger persecution in all its forms is a national wildlife crime priority which Humberside Police takes very seriously indeed.
“Badger digging is a cruel and barbaric activity and involves horrendous suffering to both the badger and any dog involved.
“In this particular case, one dog named Dizzy was very far into pregnancy, giving birth within a few weeks of the incident which shows the uncaring and callous nature of those involved all the more.
“Anyone involved in this type of crime is a sadistic and cowardly individual who the Humberside Wildlife Crime Team are always on the lookout for and always welcome information about.
“This crime was reported to us by a member of the public and I would like to offer my thanks to them and everyone else involved in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”