Mobile phone footage revealed an “absolutely horrific” film of a man illegally fighting two dogs with a badger. 

The film, which was recorded in Burnley in June 2021, was described by an RSPCA inspector as “very difficult to watch and to listen to.” 

Carl Harwood, 27, of Lowerhouse Lane, was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He was also disqualified from keeping any animals for five years after he was sentenced at Blackburn Magistrates Court last Wednesday (February 8) following a prosecution by the RSPCA. 

Lancashire Telegraph: TobyToby (Image: RSPCA)

He’d previously been found guilty of one offence contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act 1991 at a trial on January 12 this year and admitted a second charge relating to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. 

The court heard how police discovered the disturbing footage on another man’s mobile phone on August 13 2021 after both men were being investigated for other, non-related offences.

Two dogs, including a 14-month-old bull lurcher called Toby, were seen attacking the badger on the head, throat and back, with a male voice encouraging them on.

Following an investigation, RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor, along with the charity’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) and Lancashire Police’s Ribble Valley Rural Task Force visited the defendants’ house on October 19 2021. Magistrates heard how they went into the living room and saw Toby being held on a lead by Harwood. 

The dog, who was wearing the same type of collar as that seen in the mobile phone footage, had a significant scar which ran lengthwise along almost the entire length of the top of his head.

On the left hand side of the lower jaw and surrounding area there were 22 individual scarred puncture wounds and on the right hand side there were nine. More recent scarring and scabbing was seen underneath his left hind paw and lower leg.

Lancashire Telegraph: TobyToby (Image: RSPCA)

Harwood told the officers they’d been sustained while out lamping and ratting. 

Toby was seized by the police and taken into RSPCA care and seen by a vet. He was subsequently microchipped, vaccinated and treated for fleas and worms.

In her evidence to the court, inspector Taylor described the mobile phone footage.

She said: “It was filmed in the dark but two dogs can be seen attacking a badger as initially, when the recording begins, a bright light can be seen being shone on the animals.

“The footage is very difficult to watch and to listen to, it is absolutely horrific. All the way through the footage the badger can be heard screaming in pain and it is extremely distressed, with the dogs heard panting also.

“At around eight seconds, when Toby has lost interest and has left the badger, a male voice can be heard to say something like ‘here Toby, Toby get it, get it.’ The dog can then be seen joining the first dog in attacking the badger again.

“The men heard to be present during the recording made no attempt or effort to get the dogs under control and prevent them from fighting and attacking the badger.”

Her colleague, inspector Chris Haywood told the court: “In 34 years of dealing with dogs I have never seen these types of injuries on any other breeds other than lurchers, bull lurchers and terriers and known them to be caused by any other means than by a badger.” 

Lancashire Telegraph: TobyToby (Image: RSPCA)

Magistrates also heard evidence from a vet who examined Toby on 20 October. He said the scars represented skin injuries that had healed and therefore occurred at least four weeks prior to his examination. “In my opinion, Toby would have been caused to suffer in the absence of timely and appropriate veterinary care at the time of skin injury,” he said. 

“With regards to the video footage, the person present at the time the two dogs were attacking the badger failed to take reasonable steps to intervene and bring the dog under close control in order to prevent him from continuing to fight with the badger, thereby failing to protect these animals from injury, pain and suffering.”

The court was told that Harwood said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the footage - although he knew it was illegal - and didn’t believe that his dog required veterinary treatment for his injuries. 

He also denied having an encounter with a badger, any involvement with injuring or killing one and said he didn’t believe it was Toby in the footage. He couldn’t explain why the scarring on his dog may not have matched the injuries that would be sustained from going ‘ratting’ with him.

Toby has recovered well in RSPCA care and the charity hopes to rehome him in due course. The whereabouts and owner of the other dog seen in the video are unknown.

In addition to the suspended prison sentence, concurrent on each charge, Harwood was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £500. He was also given a three-month curfew from 8pm to 8am.

District Judge Alexander Boyd told him: “Setting a dog on a badger to injure it is not a sport, it is wilful cruelty.

"The fact that you videoed it and kept it on your phone would suggest to me that you took pleasure from what you did to that badger using your own dog.

"That makes these offences even worse than they already are.”

Speaking after sentencing, inspector Taylor said: “Illegal badger baiting causes significant pain, suffering, huge distress and even death to the animals involved, all for the enjoyment of people who take part in it and shockingly, find pleasure in such activities.

"We would urge anyone with information about incidents like this to report them to the RSPCA or their local rural crime team.” 

An arrest warrant has been issued for another man in relation to the case.