A couple have been banned from breeding dogs after illegally ‘cropping’ the ears of an American bully puppy and stitching the wounds with fishing wire.
Dawn and Louise Hillbeck, aged 23 and 25, had three of the bulldog-type pups, which can be sold for £6,000.
Animal welfare investigators were tipped off about one of the pups, a four-month-old dog named Russia, which had mutilated ears.
When the poorly dog was examined, she was found to have badly swollen ears with stitches made from fishing line.
Ear cropping is a process where a dogs ears are removed or surgically altered, usually for appearance purposes.
The practice has become an increasing trend in recent years and is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act.
The Scottish SPCA warned that organised criminals were turning to dog breeding and called for prohibition orders on people found to have mutilated animals for “superficial and monetary” reasons.
Both Hillbecks, from Newcastleton in the Scottish Borders, were given a five year ban on dealing and trading dogs after being sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Scottish Borders, on Monday (March 18).
Dawn Hillbeck admitted permitting a prohibited procedure on a protected animal under Section 20 (2) of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
Louise Hillbeck pleaded guilty to causing a prohibited procedure on a protected animal under Section 20 (3) of the Act.
They were also given a one year conduct requirement order, and 80 hours community payback.
A special investigations unit inspector from the SSPCA said: “This is a case of unnecessary suffering by deliberately mutilating a four month old female American bully called Russia.
“Hillbeck and Hillbeck allowed the illegal procedure of ear cropping to be carried out, something that is completely superficial and has become a trend among owners of the bully breed.
“We received information that the offenders were keeping American bully dogs with cropped ears and that there was a puppy, who we now know as Russia, who had freshly cropped ears.
“Due to the immediate concern for the dogs in the Hillbeck’s care, we were granted a search warrant.
“We found three bully puppies on the premises and one of those was Russia.
“Russia was found with both ear flaps freshly removed with stitches still present.
“The ears were very badly swollen and infected.
“It was clear that the stitches had not been administered by a vet, resulting in the wounds looking inflamed and very painful.
“The material used for stitching was consistent with fishing line.
“This is evidence that a qualified vet wasn’t used to carry out the procedure.”
Two puppies were also found, but their ears hadn’t been cropped and all the dogs were taken into care by the Scottish SPCA.
The inspector said: “Russia was not protected from suffering by those responsible for her care and also was not given the veterinary attention she needed for this needless cosmetic mutilation.
“Our special investigations unit has seen a rise in the trade of American bully puppies.
“They can sell for up to £6,000 per pup and ear cropping seems to be a desirable feature for these dogs, to boost the price tag even higher.
“The pair now reside in England so as part of their conduct requirement order, they will be required to complete an RSPCA education programme and they are subject to random home checks for a year. “
The inspector also called for greater sentencing powers to deter breeders from carrying out cropping, which they claim is “mutilating” animals for “monetary reasons”.
They added: “While we are pleased the court acknowledges the suffering in this case, we would have supported a ban on the owning and keeping of all animals.
“We are aware of organised criminals profiteering from this trade and we feel stronger sentencing would act as a deterrent and send out the message that mutilating an animal for superficial and monetary reasons is completely unacceptable.”