REPORTS of organised dog fighting in Lancashire almost doubled in the space of 12 months, despite the savage pursuit being banned for 180 years.

Bosses at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it received 27 reports of the crime in the county last year - making it the fourth worst area for the crime in the country.


In 2013, there were 15 cases reported in Lancashire and nationally the charity reported a rise of 33 per cent, from 449 reports to 594.

The figures were revealed as East Lancashire rural crime officer PC Nigel Keates said an investigation into a dog fighting case was ongoing in Nelson.

PC Keates said: “On Friday, February 6, along with the RSPCA we conducted a joint warrant at a house in Nelson after reports of animal fighting.

“Two dogs were seized and a man was arrested on suspicion of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and animal fighting.

“The RSPCA are the lead investigators and we are working closely to secure a result.”

PC Keates said the rising number of cases was a concern and the public played a key role in stopping it.

He said: “As a rural officer I have a good relationship with the RSPCA and they have not got the funding they need to put an officer in every area.

“We rely very much on the public being our eyes and ears.

“If you are the person that sees someone setting a dog on a badger then you have the evidence.

“Once the offence is done it is very difficult to prove.”

PC Keates added: “I am unsure if there are more incidents actually happening now.

“I think people are more switched on to it and are coming forward to report it more than they used to.”

RSPCA chief insp Ian Briggs said dog fighting is still a very real problem.

He said: “Some people simply cannot believe dog fighting still happens, but it does and these new figures show that it is as much a problem now, if not more, than any other point in recent years.

“I have been investigating organised animal fighting for more than a decade and it still disgusts me, knowing that there are individuals who continue to take pleasure in watching animals brutally fight each other, often causing horrific and sometimes fatal injuries. “ In July last year, Joshua Varey, Shaun Mullens and Paul Ashworth were all jailed for filming their dogs attacking a badger and a cat on their mobile phone.

Mullens and Ashworth had used a dog to bait a badger while, in a separate incident, Ashworth was filmed climbing trees to shake a cat out to be attacked by waiting dogs.

And in May, six bull terrier-type dogs were seized from three homes in Hyndburn by police investigating fighting animals.

The figures in Lancashire had levelled off in the four years before last year, with 15 cases having been reported in 2010 and 2011, 17 in 2012 and 15 in 2013.

The West Midlands came out worst in the league table with 48 reports, Greater London second with 36 and Greater Manchester third with 35.

Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry said: “As an animal lover and pet owner myself, I am as concerned about this as everyone else.

“I will be working closely with the wildlife officers of our local police forces to clampdown on this appalling issue.”

RSPCA chief insp Briggs, said: “RSPCA inspectors deal with countless instances of neglect caused by ignorance, but these cases are all about premeditated cruelty.

“Hopefully one day organised animal fighting can truthfully be described as a thing of the past. Until then, we’ll keep investigating and try to bring about an end to such horrific levels of animal cruelty.”

Animal fighting and baiting was banned in England by the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1835.

It is now covered by section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act, which makes it illegal to stage an animal fight, to take part in an animal fight, train animals for the purpose of fighting, to attend and/or publicise an animal fight and to posses equipment designed to be used in connection with animal fighting.