A man has been jailed for a portfolio of animal cruelty offences against a fox and his own pet dogs, that a judge described as "criminal and utterly shocking.”

Dane Crawford, 30, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster, appeared at Preston Crown Court on Monday (February 5) for sentencing alongside his girlfriend, Shelby Wallis, 23, of the same address.

Crawford and Wallis had both previously pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act, which included failing to treat their two lurchers’ injuries, including one badly fractured leg, and for allowing the ears of two of their bullbreeds - Drey and Shakira - to be illegally cropped.

Lancashire Telegraph: The bullbreedsThe bullbreeds (Image: RSPCA)

Crawford also admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a fox after setting dogs on the wild animal inside a garage.

The RSPCA launched an investigation following reports of puppies having their ears cropped, leading to a warrant being executed by police at a property in Lancaster in February 2022.

A number of dogs were present but there was no evidence of any crimes having been committed.

During the property search, two mobile phones were recovered which contained images and videos of wildlife being attacked by dogs. This prompted a further warrant, on November 1 2022, in which Crawford was arrested.

Lancashire Telegraph: ShakiraShakira (Image: RSPCA)

During this search, more dogs were found at the property, including two lurchers - called Major and Lassie - with untreated injuries, and bullbreeds with cropped ears. Five dogs in total were removed and placed into RSPCA care.

Investigators also looked into the images and videos from the phones, two of which showed foxes being set loose in confined spaces with dogs encouraged to attack them.

Lancashire Telegraph: LassieLassie (Image: RSPCA)

RSPCA Inspector Will Lamping, who led the investigation, said after the case: “An image was recovered showing Crawford in very distinctive trainers with one of his dogs, holding a dead fox.

“We could identify him within the video of the fox being attacked because of these trainers.”

A vet assessed the lurchers and bullbreeds after they were removed from the home of Crawford and Wallis.

She described Major’s facial injuries as “unusual” and “traumatic”, and suspected they’d been caused by another animal at least 72 hours before. She said, in her witness statement, that the owner should have sought veterinary advice.

Lancashire Telegraph: MajorMajor (Image: RSPCA)

She described Lassie’s fractured leg as ‘a traumatic wound’, adding: “I am not sure how it happened but the dog has been left with a very painful leg and the owner had not sought timely veterinary advice. As such there was development of swelling and more pain, and infection.”

Inspector Lamping added: “In interview, Crawford told me he got the two lurchers six weeks before from Appleby. Wallis told me that the three bullbreed dogs were hers and that they’d been imported.”

Lassie and Major were signed over into the RSPCA’s care a few days after they were removed and, after spending some time receiving treatment, were both rehomed. The bullbreeds were signed over at a later date.

Lancashire Telegraph: DreyDrey (Image: RSPCA)

Crawford was sentenced to a total of 30 months in prison and ordered to pay £3,500 towards costs. He was also disqualified from keeping all animals for life.

Wallis was handed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. She must also pay £2,500 towards costs and was disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years.

Lancashire Telegraph: ShakiraShakira (Image: RSPCA)

Sentencing the couple, Judge Simon Medland KC said they had shown “cruel and neglectful behaviour” which caused the animals to suffer “to a substantial degree”.

Addressing Crawford in relation to the offences against the fox, he said: “Your behaviour was criminal and utterly shocking.”

Following the sentencing, Inspector Lamping said: "This case sends a clear message to those that choose to engage in wildlife persecution and ear cropping that their cruel activities will not be tolerated.

"It took many hours to comb through the videos and pictures on the phones recovered; but this work uncovered the serious level of cruelty shown to both the wild animals literally being thrown to the dogs - and to the puppies whose ears were being mutilated.

"The defendants' own dogs were used in these attacks and were left without vet treatment for serious injuries - including a fractured leg.

"Both have been handed lengthy bans on keeping animals, and handed prison or suspended prison sentences, for their treatment of animals."