SHOCKING video footage of organised dog fights filmed in Accrington has led to a father-to-be being jailed.
Liaquat Ali, 40, of Steiner Street, was sent to prison for six months in a landmark case for the RSPCA in their battle to wipe out dog fighting.
He was also banned from keeping animals for life after being convicted of keeping a premise for the purpose of dog fighting and causing two protected animals, namely dogs, to fight.
Ali is the first person in the country to be prosecuted for these offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in a prosecution brought by the RSPCA.
He pleaded guilty at Hyndburn Magistrates Court to causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of a pit bull-type dog called Enzo, which was found emaciated and locked in a wooden box with no water, light or ventilation in his back garden.
Vets found the dog was about half the normal bodyweight for his breed.
Ali also pleaded guilty to possessing two further pit bull-type dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act after police raids in Charter Street and Spring Hill Road, Accrington.
His defence solicitor Peter King told the magistrates how one of these dogs named Snoop was a family pet he had had from an eight-week-old puppy and that he had not known or suspected that he was an illegal dog.
He also said that during the time Ali had kept the dog he had taken it for regular check-ups to a vet in Accrington and that he was never warned that Snoop was not the Staffordshire bull terrier crossed with a labrador he thought it was.
Ali also denied that a pit bull named Spike, found in his possession, belonged to him and that it was owned by a member of a dominant Asian gang that had taken advantage of his good nature and slow mind and had taken over his flat for their dog fighting.
The court also heard that in June 2007, police and RSPCA officers executed a warrant at two addresses in Blackburn Road, Accrington and Richmond Road, Blackburn.
At the flat in Blackburn Road, blood was found on the walls that DNA and forensic science proved had come from more than one dog.
Other paraphernalia was also discovered as well as dog fighting footage showing Ali fighting a dog on his mobile phone.
Ali, who is married and also has a girlfriend who is expecting twins, was given the maximum sentence possible by magistrates.
Chairman of the Bench, Mr Ed Barrow, sentenced him to 90 days’ jail consecutively for each offence of keeping a premise for the purpose of dog fighting and causing an animal fight to take place; 90 days concurrently for causing unnecessary suffering and for owning a dog listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act without a certificate of exemption.
He told him 180 days was the maximum penalty the court could impose, adding: "If I could, I would have given you more."
Mr Barrow also allowed the RSPCA to claim some of the prosecution costs from central funds as well as handing them ownership of the emanciated pit bull named Enzo.
A destruction order was also made for the two remaining pit bull dogs on the grounds they caused a danger to the public.
RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs, of the Special Operations Unit, said outside court: "We are extremely pleased that the magistrates took such a tough stance on Ali and that they took his crimes seriously enough never to allow him to own another animal.
"We can only imagine how many dogs have suffered at the hands of Ali and his friends. In my mind I don’t think Ali was influenced by any other Asian men. I think he kept these dogs and fought them simply for his own pleasure."
PC Duncan Thomas, wildlife officer for Lancashire Police, said: "This is yet another superb example of the police and RSPCA working togther in partnership to challenge dog fighting.
"Unfortunately, dog fighting is a so-called sport which is still pursued in the North of England. We hope this conviction will send a clear message to those involved that they will be prosecuted."
Click on the video window to see some of the footage, released by the RSPCA. (WARNING: Viewers may find the footage distressing)