A couple from Kingsley who allowed their seven-year-old daughter to sleep with one of their pit bull terriers have been ordered to pay £2,155 after admitting possession of two of the banned breed.
Craig Evans and Hayley Sumner, of Top Road, both pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing or having custody of fighting dogs at Chester Magistrates Court on Monday (February 16).
Evans, 33, admitted an additional charge of possessing items designed or adapted for use in connection with an animal fight with the intention of it being used, after police seized weighted collars, shock collars and CDs and DVDs relating to dog fighting upon executing a warrant at the family home on April 22 last year.
Wendy Newton, prosecuting, said police also found two treadmills, a flirt pole, ornaments depicting dogs fighting and a gallows-like structure which dogs can hang off to ‘increase bite’.
But the couple – who have three children and are expecting another – denied they used ‘family pets’ Red Boy and Arcadia for fighting when Mrs Newton put it to them that they were training the dogs to fight.
Evans, who suffers from psychosis, said he loved exercising the dogs because it keeps him ‘fit and mentally stable’.
He said Red Boy, who was kept in a kennel in the garden, was a ‘liability’ but that five-year-old Arcadia was ‘the perfect dog’.
“She sleeps with my little girl so that says it all,” he said.
He added: “I wouldn’t say I have an unhealthy interest in fighting dogs. I have an unhealthy interest in pit bulls. I am not going to subject my kids to dog fighting and thinking dog fighting is good. It is disgraceful.”
Evans claimed that the shock collar was not active and that it was only ever on the bleep setting.
The court heard that Evans and Sumner believed Arcadia was a Staffy-Labrador cross and that Red Boy was a Staffy-Boxer cross initially.
Thirty-one-year-old Sumner, who has won awards showing British bulldogs at competitions, said she realised Arcadia was a pit bull when she was around 18 months old but did not get her registered because she was afraid that she would be taken away.
The residential home manager told the court she never liked Red Boy because he was ‘mad’ and did not let any of the children go near him, claiming that safety was her ‘number one priority at all times’.
But she added that ‘beautiful’ Arcadia was ‘fine’ around the children and didn’t pose a danger to anyone.
“Dog fighting repulses me to my core,” she said.
Giving evidence for the prosecution, PC Jason Lennox from Cheshire police’s dog handling unit said: “A normal person does not want their dogs to be well-muscled.
“Pit bulls go from one to ten in excitement very quickly. Any dog can do that but it certainly cannot inflict the same damage that a pit bull can.
“Even prior to the training, the pit bull has an immense jaw pressure.”
PC Lennox told the court he believed Red Boy was being trained as a fighting dog and that Arcadia, who he said was in ‘outstanding condition’, appeared to be receiving the same training.
“It seems clear to me that this is someone who is interested in fighting dogs,” he said of Evans.
Magistrates said they were satisfied by the evidence that the dogs posed a risk to the public.
Destruction orders were made for both Red Boy and Arcadia, as well as the weighted and shock collars, the gallows-like structure and the flirt pole.
Evans and Sumner were ordered to pay victim surcharges totalling £105, costs of £1,600 and a penalty of £450 for not disclosing the dogs’ breed.
Evans was also ordered to undertake 60 hours unpaid work in the community.