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Former Moray resident’s dogs suffered “horrendous” injuries, Elgin Sheriff Court told as 39 year-old Sean Garland is banned from owning animals for 10 years

By Ewan Malcolm

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A FORMER Moray resident has been banned from owning or working with animals for a decade following an extensive Scottish SPCA investigation.

Two of Garland's Patterdale Terriers were suffering from painful facial injuries that had never been treated by a vet.
Two of Garland's Patterdale Terriers were suffering from painful facial injuries that had never been treated by a vet.

Sean Garland (39), formerly of Blackfolds Farm near Dufftown, kept three Patterdale Terriers for the purposes of animal fighting between March 12, 2022 and February 2, 2023.

The SSPCA searched Garland's premises on February 2 last year after receiving a tip-off accusing him of using the dogs to bait badgers and other wildlife.

It was also suspected that the dogs had injuries that had not been treated by a vet as, according to the animal welfare charity, those involved in animal fighting will avoid this through fear of being reported to authorities.

A Scottish SPCA specialist investigation officer said: “Within kennels we found a black Patterdale Terrier named Muff who was around 12 years of age.

"Her upper lip had an old wound that extended up to the nasal area. There were numerous healed marks and scars and old healed injuries around her jaw area, muzzle and nose area.

"The injuries were consistent with having been caused and inflicted by a badger and fox.

“Within the kitchen area a young brown Patterdale Terrier called Midge was found within a small crate.

"Midge had very obvious facial injuries to her lower lip; chin and muzzle area.

"Her nose/muzzle area appeared to be distorted with a 'dent' in the middle of her muzzle with deep scarring to the bridge of the nose."

A bag containing two locating tracker collars and a locating box, which are used for pursuing or flushing animals such as foxes or badgers out from their hiding spots, were also found within the premises.

The items can help determine the depth of a badger sett or fox earth before a hole is dug until the fox or badger is exposed and killed.

Subsequent checks on these collars found four samples which showed strong positive results for badger DNA.

Both dogs were removed from the premises for immediate veterinary treatment and have since been permanently rehomed.

Both dogs were removed from the premises for immediate veterinary treatment to be carried out on their injuries.
Both dogs were removed from the premises for immediate veterinary treatment to be carried out on their injuries.

The specialist investigation officer said: “Both dogs had facial injuries consistent with repeated episodes of face to face combat with wild animals.

"While some of these injuries may have been fox-related, the more severe facial injuries including lower lip avulsions, missing and damaged teeth and nasal trauma and disfiguration as seen in Midge were more consistent with badger injuries.

“The lip injuries are the results of strong tearing forces when the badger fights back when face to face with the terriers, using teeth and claws.

“It is likely that both of the dogs had been used for repeated episodes of hunting due to the varying nature and age of wounds noted on examination.

"As there were wounds of differing ages and they were multiple in nature, it is likely that there was a failure to protect these animals from pain, distress and suffering over a prolonged period of time."

Investigators also saw WhatsApp messages between Garland and one of his associates which indicated that a third dog, which was never seen by the SSPCA, had been used for animal fighting but that it had died due to a broken jaw.

One of the messages described the dog as having gone "out on a high" after being killed by a badger.

Garland appeared at Elgin Sheriff Court on June 13 for sentencing.

His defence solicitor told the court that his client, who has no previous convictions, had a "good reputation" in the field of pest control.

He also said that while two of the dogs in his care were singled out by the SSPCA as being in poor condition, 28 other dogs also in his care were in "immaculate" condition.

The solicitor said Garland feels "deep shame", however, and that he has since stepped away from the trade to work in construction having received death threats from animal rights groups.

"He has been severely rocked financially by this," his solicitor said.

"He has deep regret and he accepts his guilt in the matter.

"His world has been turned upside down."

Garland, who now lives in Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to animal fighting charges and failing to obtain veterinary treatment for injuries causing unnecessary suffering to dogs in his care.

Sheriff Olga Pasportnikov banned him from owning or working with any animals for a period of 10 years and ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work as a direct alternative to custody.

A spokesperson for the SSPCA said: "We are satisfied that Garland received a 10 year ban on owning and keeping all animals, though we had hoped for a custodial sentence.

"Both Midge and Muff suffered horrendous injuries that were left untreated and clearly caused them pain and distress over a long period.

“I would also like to thank Karon Rollo, Procurator Fiscal Depute, Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit for her dedication to this case and to Lucy Webster from SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) for assisting with the DNA collecting to show the use of badger and fox DNA in this case.”

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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