A man from Fleetwood has been handed a suspended sentence and banned from keeping dogs for eight years after pleading guilty to badger baiting.
Jack Starkey, 29, of Hodder Avenue, Fleetwood, appeared before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (December 12).
He pleaded guilty to two offences under the Protection of Badgers Act and one under the Animal Welfare Act.
The prosecution was led by the RSPCA who were called to rescue an injured badger from Bluebell Wood nature reserve in Denton, Tameside on February 3.
An RSPCA officer took the badger to a vet where they confirmed that the animal had been attacked by a dog.
The vet was forced to euthanise the badger due to the severity of its wounds.
The next day, Chris Heyworth, an RSPCA officer tasked with investigating serious and organised animal crime, was contacted by Lancashire Badger Group.
The group had been made aware of another incident in Denton where a badger had been attacked and a sett had been dug.
Inspector Heyworth visited the scene and found the set dug just 70 yards from a road.
He said: “Unfortunately I've seen many disturbed badger setts and examples of badger digging in my 28 years as an RSPCA officer and it was clear this sett had been recently dug.
"In badger digging a terrier is typically sent into the sett wearing a tracking collar and will corner the badger so the people above ground can dig them out.
"A large hole is dug - commonly referred to as a crowning point - and the badger is pulled out often by a large bull lurcher type dog.
"A seriously injured badger was discovered at the scene the previous day and taken to a vet but, sadly, had to be put to sleep due to the severity of the wounds."
Information led to a suspect and the RSPCA approached Lancashire Police for assistance in executing a warrant on February 12 at a home in Hodder Avenue, Fleetwood.
Three dogs were found inside the home, two with extensive scarring and one - a black Patterdale- type bitch - with an open sore on its leg.
Occupants at the address said the dogs belonged to 29-year-old Jack Starkey.
The RSPCA were able to use a rare type of DNA to link one of the dogs to the fatally-injured badger.
Inspector Heyworth added: "We took DNA swabs from the badger’s wounds and these were later compared with DNA taken from the three dogs seized from Mr Starkey.
"Two were ruled out but results showed that a rare type of DNA - found in only one in 100 dogs - which was found on the badger was also present in the third dog."
Starkey was charged with offences of attempting to kill a badger, digging a sett and causing suffering to one of the dogs in his care.
The court found that Starkey had caused unnecessary suffering to the Patterdale bitch by failing to seek the care of a vet after it suffered puncture wounds to its chin during an encounter with the badger.
The 29-year-old has been sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.
He has also been ordered to complete a 20-hour rehabilitation activity requirement and 100 hours of unpaid work, in addition to paying court costs of £1,000.
All three dogs have been seized by the court and Starkey has been banned from keeping dogs for the next eight years.
The seized dogs remain in RSPCA care and will now be re-homed.