Dog fighting gang tried to breed huge 'ultimate dog', court hears

Ringleader John Knibbs changed name to avoid being convicted for third time

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 20 February 2019 18:58 GMT
Dog fighting gang tried to breed huge 'ultimate dog'

The leader of a dog fighting gang who tried to breed the "ultimate dog" has been convicted for the third time after eight animals were found with serious injuries during a raid on one of his premises.

Police and RSPCA officers also found items commonly used by people involved in dog fighting at the Sleaford, Lincolnshire property owned by ringleader John Herbert Knibbs during the September 2017 raid.

A "flirt pole", a long pole with a rope attached, and a "break stick" used to separate the animals were among the items found.

Detectives also uncovered messages and photos on Knibbs' mobile phone, which showed dog fights which lasted up to 45 minutes and dogs being trained on a treadmill.

The 55-year-old who lives in Sleaford, was first prosecuted for dog fighting in 2009 and disqualified from keeping animals for life.

He was convicted of breaching his ban in 2016 but changed his name to John Donaghy in an attempt to evade police.

As they investigated the second breach of ban, police and the RSPCA obtained a warrant in September 2017 to search a premises in Sleaford.

It was here that they found eight dogs including an American bulldog, a bully kutta cross presa canario, and a pitbull terrier.

A dog fighting gang which tried to breed the "ultimate dog" has been convicted after a police and RSPCA raid discovered eight dogs, some with horrible injuries. Messages and photos uncovered on ringleader John Herbert Knibbs’ mobile phone showed fights lasting up to 45 minutes. (RSPCA)
A dog fighting gang which tried to breed the "ultimate dog" has been convicted after a police and RSPCA raid discovered eight dogs, some with horrible injuries. Pictured is an image uncovered by the investigation. (RSPCA)

The messages found on Knibbs’ phone also led detectives to two other addresses in Lincolnshire and the Welsh island of Anglesey, where a bull terrier called Panther was found with scars from fighting.

Adam Scott of Amlwch was subsequently convicted of possessing two pitbull terrier type dogs contrary to Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

He was also convicted of aiding and abetting a disqualification order for Knibbs.

A warrant is also out for the arrest of Stephen John Gardner, 58, of Bloxholm, Lincolnshire, who failed to attend court.

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Knibbs was convicted of a number of allegations in his absence, including keeping and training dogs for fighting, ear cropping, and causing unnecessary suffering to two bull terriers called Baddy and Panther by failing to provide veterinary care for their injuries.

Kimberleigh Steele, 29, also of Sleaford was convicted in her absence for aiding and abetting Knibbs who was already in breach of a disqualification ban.

A warrant is now out for their arrest for sentencing.

RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall said: “Although we never found the body of Baddy, the pictures and subsequent text messages about the fight revealed that there were severe puncture wounds to his head and the enforced fight between Baddy and a much larger presa canario was gruelling, lasting a total of 45 minutes.

“The videos also showed further evidence of this cruel and barbaric practice and the suffering of these dogs would have been horrendous.”

She added: “This was an organisation involved in keeping and breeding of dogs for fighting, owned and run by Mr Knibbs, a convicted dog fighter who had changed his name to John Donaghy to try and remain undetected. The court heard that this group were set on breeding a very large dog, possibly for fighting which they referred to as the ‘ultimate dog’.”

Scott was sentenced and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs, £80 victim surcharge, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.

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