HORRIFIC mobile phone footage of dogs ripping apart a fox was used to convict three men of animal cruelty offences.
The men have been given suspended sentence after the sick video clip was passed to the RPSCA.
In it terriers are seeing pulling and tearing at the animal, while being goaded on by their owners.
Most shockingly, in one of the clips, young children are watching the bloody scenes.
Yesterday, at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, Ian Raymond Moralee, 25, of Swaledale Crescent, Houghton, pleaded guilty to arranging a fight between a fox and terrier dogs between August 2008 and June 2011 and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
Terry Stavers, 30, of Handley Crescent, East Rainton, pleaded guilty to being present at an animal fight and causing unnecessary suffering to his dogs Tiny and Cass, which were left with injuries to their noses and paws.
His brother Jonathan Stavers, 31, of Lloyd Avenue, East Rainton, also admitted being present at the fight and causing unnecessary suffering to the fox.
All three entered guilty pleas on a basis to charges to offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
Prosecuting for the RSPCA, Denise Jackman told JPs that an ex-partner of former gamekeeper Moralee showed an RSPCA inspector one of the gory mobile phone clips and a fox’s tail which had been kept.
A joint investigation between Northumbria Police and the animal charity revealed the extent of the trio’s cruelty.
Mobile phones and laptops were seized, as well as equipment including ropes and lamps.
Mrs Jackman said: “This is a subject which the wider public are appalled at. Children were present at this barbaric event and words of encouragement are given to the children, suggesting that this is a sport.”
A statement from vet Rachel Brown was read out, which said the fox would have suffered “immeasurable pain as it was slowly killed by being bit”.
Defending Moralee, Peter Lowthian said his work as a gamekeeper had lead to him becoming “de-sensitised” and viewing foxes as vermin.
James Palmer, representing the Stavers brothers, said they had been unable to look at the video clips when they were played in court.
Moralee and Terry Stavers were given an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, with a year’s supervision.
Both were also told they are to be electronically tagged and made subject to a four-month curfew.
Jonathan Stavers was given 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and made subject to an 18-month supervision order.
He is no longer allowed to keep three dogs which he owns.
All three men were banned from owning dogs for life, a ruling they cannot appeal against for the next five years.
Inspector Jacqui Miller, of the RSPCA, said: “I think the sentencing reflects the severity of the cruelty and suffering caused to the fox and the dogs.
“I think custodial sentences would have shown people that this is something that they cannot get away with.”
Insp Miller added that the video footage of the attack which was shown in court was “one of the most horrific things I have seen”.