A FORMER gamekeeper on a Scots estate who kept and trained dogs for fighting has been jailed and banned from keeping animals for 15 years.

As well as his eight-month sentence, Rhys Davies, 28, was fined £1800 for firearms offences at Forfar Sheriff Court on Monday.

He pleaded guilty to keeping five dogs for animal fighting between April 24, 2018 and October 8, 2019.

Davies was the former gamekeeper at Millden Estate near Glenesk in Angus.

He also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to two dogs by failing to provide veterinary treatment and breaching the conditions of his firearms licence by having unsecured firearms and ammunition at his home at Turnbrae House.

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The court heard how an employee of a photo print company contacted the Scottish SPCA with serious concerns about the welfare of several dogs pictured in an order for 58 images placed by Davies.

Many of the dogs kept by Davies showed progressively more serious facial injuries over the period the images were taken.

Photographs showed a group of males engaging in the organised fighting and killing of wild animals over an extended period.

Davies was easily identifiable in many of the images.

A warrant was issued for Davies on the morning of October 8, 2019 after police and SSPCA inspectors visited his home.

They found and seized a Benelli shotgun, two rifles, a Tikka .243 rifle and a CZ rifle along with an assortment of ammunition.

Eleven dogs were found within kennels on the property including five Patterdale terrier dogs with obvious signs of injuries – one who was missing the lower half of its face and injuries that produced an obvious smell.

Inspectors also found equipment on the property linked to illegal animal fighting including locator collars, medication, needles and syringes and a staple gun used for injuries.

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The dogs were seized and signed over to the SSPCA for rehoming.

During a police interview, Davies admitted that the dogs had not received veterinary treatment but had initially denied the dogs had been used in illegal dog fighting.

Davies’ phone was also seized by police which found messages and voice notes discussing digging and fighting with the dogs.

Speaking after the sentencing, Karon Rollo, head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS, said: “Animal fighting is a cruel illegal activity which causes terrible and unnecessary suffering to animals.

“The evidence clearly shows the scope of the involvement Rhys Davies had with an organised group that took pleasure in killing wild animals in such a wicked and inhumane manner.

“I welcome the sentence and the granting of the order preventing him from keeping animals for 15 years.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA for their part in investigating and gathering evidence of these offences.

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will serve as a message to others who would cause such suffering that there are consequences and that they will be held to account for their actions and could also lose their liberty.

“COPFS will continue to work to ensure those who participate in these barbaric practices are prosecuted and would encourage anyone who may have information on animal fighting to contact Police Scotland or the Scottish SPCA.”