Gangs of youths are breeding a new type of powerful hunting dog to kill and maim wildlife in the countryside in an alarming new trend known as “psycho poaching”.
The RSCPA has told HuffPost UK that thugs torture pets and wildlife for fun and share footage of animals being ripped apart, with secret screenings even being set up in the back room of pubs.
The phenomenon is known as “psycho-poaching” or “extreme hunting”, and has led to the development of a tough new breed of dog, the bull lurcher.
A cross between the illegal pitbull terrier and a lurcher, the animals are trained to track and kill rabbits, foxes and even deer.
They are bred for both speed and ferocity, experts say. “They have the speed of a lurcher and the immense jaw strength of a pit-bull terrier,” an RSPCA spokesperson said. “Our country’s wildlife is no match for these dogs once they’re set upon.”
RSPCA special operations chief inspector Will Mitchell said the motivation for the gangs appeared to be purely sadistic. “We are getting more and more reports of people randomly hunting animals with dogs.
“We’ve dealt with numerous cases where groups of mainly young men spend their evenings going out across countryside and farmland with their dogs to track down and kill badgers, foxes, deer and anything else that may get in their way.
“The dogs can and do get injured in these fights to the death. With these people, it’s not about money or betting.
“It is all about the dogs and what they can do. It’s about who has the most powerful dog. It’s about bragging rights. It is absolutely shocking.
“This is gratuitous killing for fun. They don’t gain anything from their actions.”
Earlier this month a Lancashire man was jailed for 22 weeks and disqualified from keeping animals for life after the RSPCA obtained videos of him setting his dogs on a pet cat and a fox.
Joseph Whittam’s phone uncovered images of a dog being encouraged to attack a gerbil and still images of a fox attack which show the animal being baited by the dog.
Mitchell said: “One of the magistrates had to leave court after watching the sickening footage.
“The cat was killed although we never found the body and never traced the poor cat’s owners.
“In another video, the dogs can be seen attacking and biting a fox. In all the footage Whittam can clearly be heard encouraging the dogs and egging them on.”
Suzanne Heaney, Dog Fighting Programmes Manager at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “It is extremely concerning that gangs are training dogs to rip apart British wildlife.
“The suffering inflicted on deer, hare, badgers and foxes who are literally torn apart in the jaws of dogs, so that these thugs can kill for kicks, is chilling.
“The reality is that those who engage in extreme acts of cruelty rarely stop with animals.
“There are proven links between those who commit atrocities against animals and engage in other crime such as drugs, anti-social behaviour and other forms of violence”.