Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
John Arthur Parker, 35 dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

1999  
John Arthur Parker, 40 dogfighting raid called "Operation Gazpacho"- 76 dogs seized, 34 euthanized

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

December 1, 2003  
Not disclosed = 9 others convicted dogfighting raid called "Operation Gazpacho"- 76 dogs seized, 34 euthanized

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

December 1, 2003  
Claire Amanda Parker, 44(1) dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007  
Gary Adamson, 38 dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Ramsey Crescent, Yarm, North Yorkshire, England
Jane Adamson dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Ramsey Crescent, Yarm, North Yorkshire, England
Mohammed Nasir Farooq, 33(3) dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Bordesley Green, Birmingham, England
Owen Anthony Batey, 40(4) dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Middlesbrough, England
Christopher John Burgess, 42(5) dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Ladybrook, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England
Kenneth Harold King, 35 dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007 Ragnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire, England
Not disclosed, 17-year-old(2) dogfighting

Kexby, Lincolnshire, England

May 2007  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
   

76 pitbulls

(1) 3 pitbulls

(2) 1 pitbull

(3) 1 pitbull

(4) 2 pitbulls

(5) 1 pitbull

Convicted  

The hidden world of dogfighting in Britain has been exposed in a three-year undercover investigation which has revealed that the practice is still thriving, 170 years after it was banned.

Specialist officers from the RSPCA infiltrated criminal gangs, cultivated informants and built cases against the "obsessive" dog owners who cast bets and pit their animals against each other in fights which are sometimes to the death.

The investigation, code named Operation Gazpacho, culminated with the sentencing of John Parker, a 40-year-old dog breeder from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, for possession of a dangerous dog. He received a community penalty. His was the last of a series of criminal trials that have led to the conviction of nine men, who received sentences ranging from four months in prison to fines and banning orders. Two were found guilty of keeping dogfighting pits.

During their inquiry undercover officers from the RSPCA's special operations unit - the equivalent of the police's Special Branch - raided houses, outbuildings and pubs across Britain and discovered scenes more akin to the streets and alleys of Victorian England.

Dog pits made of panels of wood, and carpeted to allow the animals to grip, "breaking sticks" to wrench open the jaws of animals if they locked as they tore into each other, treadmills used for training fighting dogs, and veterinary kits which included staples and drips were seized in the RSPCA's operation.

Mike Butcher, an RSPCA investigator from the special operations unit, which deals with the UK's most dangerous and disturbing animal cruelty cases, said that up to 100 "hardcore" dogfighters, many of them career criminals, regularly organised bouts. "They are split into groups across the country," he said. "There are several in London, about five in Birmingham, and others in most UK cities. Dogfighting is highly organised. The people are obsessed by it."

Each group found had five to six people, who between them owned several dogs, said Mr Butcher. Ringleaders were known by pseudonyms such as King Limey and Oddbod. Another, Dr Death, had a reputation, despite his nickname, for being skilled at treating injured dogs. News of the fights was passed by word of mouth, on internet sites, and by phone.

In the early hours of December 1, 2003 more than 100 police and RSPCA officers raided 10 addresses in England after months of intelligence work. Homes and outbuildings where dogfights were suspected of being held were searched in Barnsley, Birmingham, Chesterfield, Gainsborough, Huddersfield, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Oxford and Scunthorpe. The raids led to 16 arrests and exposed how a practice that was banned in 1835 was still flourishing. About 76 dogs, many with fight injuries, were seized.

During court hearings it emerged that one bout had taken place in an outhouse behind a quiet pub in the picturesque Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell.

Mr Butcher said there was a tight-knit world of dogfighters, who took pains to ensure the fights were highly organised. "They use rules that date back to the 1800s. [The fights] take place in a pit, roughly 12ft [3.6 metres] in diameter and 2.5ft high. There's carpet on the floor so the dogs can get some purchase. The dogs are weighed to ensure they are roughly equal ... and washed down before the fight starts. The dog owners and the referee are the only people allowed in the pit, but there's also usually a stakeholder, who looks after bets, and a few spectators."

Results of fights are published in clandestine magazines. A dog that has won three fights becomes a champion; a five-times winner is a grand champion. But above all, dogfighters aim to encourage "gameness", a dog's determination to fight on even if seriously injured.

In a videotape of one bout, two dogs fight for more than half an hour. Within minutes, the sides of the ring are smeared in blood and one dog has serious injuries to its face and legs.

The rules are that whenever the dogs stop fighting, the referee orders the owners to return them to their corners. The most seriously injured dog is released; if it fails to run across the pit and attack within 10 seconds it loses the fight. Only the owners, not the referee, can withdraw a dog. In the case above, the fight ended when the RSPCA and police raided the building.

Mr Butcher believes most dogfighters take good care of their animals outside the fighting pit. "I've known dogfighters sit up all night to stop their dog dying. When we seize a dog it's often in good condition, apart from scars and wounds."

Gazpacho was a success for the RSPCA, but because of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, 34 of the rescued dogs were killed after the court ruled that they were of the American pitbull type.

Update 1/16/06:  A man with a previous conviction for dogfighting has been given a two-year community punishment and rehabilitation order after breaching a ban on keeping dogs and possessing a pitbull-type dog.

John Arthur Parker, 40, from, Kexby, near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. Magistrates ruled that as part of the community punishment and rehabilitation order, 80 hours would be made up of work within the community. Parker was also ordered to pay £250 towards costs. He was convicted of cruelty to animals in connection with dogfighting in 1999 when he served a term of imprisonment and was given a 10-year ban on keeping dogs.

The court heard that in December 2003, the RSPCA and police visited a property in Kexby Lane as part of a nationwide operation codenamed 'Gazpacho'. The operation involved a number of raids across England and concentrated on alleged dogfighting. Parker's property contained a number of dogs, eight of which have now been signed over to the RSPCA. After the case Chief Inspector Mike Butcher, from the RSPCA special operations unit, said: "We hope John Parker is a changed man and will not ignore the court's orders in the future."

Parker was the final defendant from the Gazpacho group to come to court. In total nine defendants were prosecuted by the RSPCA - six pleaded guilty, two were found guilty and one case is under appeal.

Update 9/8/09:  Three people accused of being involved in one of Europe's largest dog-fighting syndicates have appeared in court.

The defendants include Claire Parker, 44, of Kexby Lane, Kexby, Lincolnshire, and Mohammed Farooq, 33, of Daniels Road, Bordesley Green, Birmingham.

Ms Parker and Mr Farooq, along with a 17-year-old youth, are alleged to be part of a huge dogfighting ring, Lincoln Magistrates' Court heard.

They deny a variety of charges connected to dogfighting.

They were charged following an investigation by BBC's Panorama programme into links between a dogfighter and a Northern Ireland gang with paramilitary connections who supplied illegal US pitbull dogs and travelled to fights as far away as Finland.

Ms Parker, a mother of three young children, denies being present at a dogfight, keeping a premises for dogfighting and possessing three pitbull dogs.

Mr Farooq denies two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and possessing training equipment for dogfighting.

The youth denies two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and keeping dogfighting equipment.

Both he and Mr Farooq admit owning a banned pitbull.

Gary Adamson, 38, of Ramsey Crescent, Yarm, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to six charges in connection with illegal dogfighting when he appeared in court.

Kenneth King, 35, of Main Street, Ragnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire, admitted eight charges related to fighting banned pitbull terriers during the same hearing.

Owen Batey, 40, of Cannock Road, Middlesbrough, admitted setting two pitbulls on each other and being present at a dogfight. Earlier, he pleaded guilty to owning a pitbull.

Christopher Burgess, 42, of Longstone Way, Ladybrook, Mansfield, Notts, was told he would probably receive a community sentence during the hearing after he pleaded guilty to one charge of keeping a banned dog.

All four will be sentenced on 25 September.

The trial of Ms Parker, Mr Farooq and the youth continues.

  (Photo of Claire Parker courtesy of the BBC)

Update 9/15/09:  A woman from Lincolnshire who held sickening dog fights in a home-made pit in her garage has been convicted in one of the biggest cases of its type ever brought by the RSPCA.

Claire Parker was today found guilty of holding a dogfight at her home in May 2007, which was attended by people from across England who formed part of one of the biggest organised dogfighting rings in the UK. Parker’s husband John Parker was to face charges relating to dogfighting, but he died in prison before the case reached court.

Mohammed Nasir Farooq, from Birmingham, was also found guilty of attending the fight.

Claire Parker and Farooq, along with a youth aged under 18, were convicted of possession of pitbull terrier type dogs by district judge Richard Blake at the end of a week-long trial held at Lincoln Magistrates Court. Farooq and the youth were also convicted of causing unnecessary suffering.

Gary Adamson, Owen Batey and Kenneth King have already been told they face jail after they admitted attending the dogfight in Lincolnshire. The three men, as well as Christopher Burgess, also admitted the possession of pitbull terrier type dogs that were used for animal fighting.

The seven were caught as part of two major investigations into dogfighting by the RSPCA’s special operations unit named Operations Cannon and Castle. Separate footage obtained by an undercover reporter working on a BBC Panorama investigation into organised dogfighting also provided the RSPCA with vital video evidence to bring these individuals to justice.

Chief inspector Ian Briggs, of the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “A search warrant was executed in eight counties across the UK and involved joint RSPCA and police teams. The operation unearthed 35 fighting dogs of which over half had sustained fighting injuries. Dogfighting paraphernalia was also found, including treadmills and breaking sticks.

“As a result 10 people have now been convicted. The RSPCA feels much of the credit for this success is due to the determination and bravery of the late Stephen Ibinson, the reporter who carried out the BBC investigation.

The BBC footage showed Adamson describe in detail a fight which took place at Parker’s Kexby home. The fight was between Adamson’s pitbull terrier type dog Pablo, and another owned by King, called Chief. Adamson was caught on camera naming some of those who attended, while others were tracked down by the RSPCA.

Searches were carried out at several premises, including the homes of the defendants. Equipment including several treadmills, training aids, home veterinary kits and prescription only drugs were all discovered by the RSPCA inspectors who investigated the case. Many of the individuals also had elaborate kennel set-ups at their home addresses, along with several pitbull type dogs that had scars from previous fights.

During a search of Parker’s home, RSPCA inspectors discovered a blood stained fighting pit constructed in the garage. This is believed to be the pit where the fight described by Adamson was held. The inspectors also found three pitbull type dogs, an elaborate set of kennels and treadmills used to train the animals at Parker’s premises.

Today District Judge Richard Blake said of Claire Parker: “I am satisfied that you kept premises that were cruelly adapted for use in dogfights. I do not accept that you were unaware of what the premises were adapted for.

Of Mohammed Nasir Farooq he said: “In my view you set up a training camp in your garden to prepare your dogs for fighting.  “If this were not such a serious case I would find your description of the dogs as family pets laughable. The treadmills were there to train dogs. You kept veterinary supplies because you knew you couldn’t take them to a vet. The manner in which the animals were kept was as fighting dogs.”

The seven will all be sentenced at Lincoln Magistrates Court on Friday, 25 September at 11am.

Jane Adamson, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog called Pablo, will also be sentenced at this hearing.

Gary Adamson (1/26/1971), of Ramsey Crescent, Yarm, Cleveland, admitted six charges: causing an animal fight to take place, taking part in an animal fight, possession of items used in connection with an animal fight, keeping a pitbull terrier type dog called Pablo for use in connection with an animal fight, jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog called Pablo by failing to provide veterinary attention in respect of injuries caused by fighting and possession of a pitbull terrier type dog known as Pablo.

Owen Anthony Batey (11/26/1968), of Cannock Road, Middlesborough, admitted three charges: causing an animal fight to take place, being present at an animal fight and possession of a pitbull terrier type dog known as Banjo.

Christopher John Burgess (11/24/1966), of Longstone Way, Ladybrook, Mansfield, admitted one charge: joint possession of a pitbull terrier type bitch.

Kenneth Harold King (12/14/1973), of Main Street, Ragnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire, admitted eight charges: causing an animal fight to take place, taking part in an animal fight, causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog known as Chief by causing the animal to fight with another, causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog known as Chief by failing to obtain veterinary attention in respect of injuries sustained in a fight with another dog, possession of items used in connection with an animal fight, keeping a pitbull terrier type dog known as Chief for use in an animal fight, possession of two pit bull terrier type dogs, and joint possession of a pit bull terrier type bitch.

Claire Amanda Parker (12/15/1964), of Kexby Lane, Kexby, Lincolnshire, was convicted of three charges: being present at an animal fight, jointly keeping a premises for use for an animal fight and joint possession of three pitbull terrier type dogs.

Mohammed Nasir Farooq (9/16/1975), of Daniels Road, Bordesley Green, Birmingham, admitted one charge: joint possession of three pitbull terrier type dogs.

He was convicted of a further seven charges: taking part in an animal fight, being present at an animal fight, jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog by causing it to fight with another dog, jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog by failing to obtain veterinary attention in respect of injuries sustained in a fight with another dog, joint possession of items used in connection with an animal fight, jointly keeping a pitbull terrier type dog for use in an animal fight, and causing unnecessary suffering by failing to prevent a pitbull terrier type dog from being injured in encounters with other dogs.

A youth aged under 18 admitted one charge: jointly had possession of three pitbull terrier type dogs.

The youth was convicted of a further five charges: jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog by causing it to fight with another dog, jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a pitbull terrier type dog by failing to obtain veterinary attention in respect of injuries sustained in a fight with another dog, jointly having possession of items used in connection with an animal fight, jointly keeping a pitbull terrier type dog for use in an animal fight, causing unnecessary suffering by failing to prevent a pitbull terrier type dog from being injured in encounters with other dogs.

Update 9/25/09:  Claire Parker was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.

Three co-defendants were jailed for between 23 and the maximum 26 weeks for animal cruelty offences.

Sentencing had been delayed after one of the defendants was attacked in court.

Kenneth King, 35, of Main Street, Ragnall, Newark, Nottinghamshire, was struck around the head several times and left bleeding from his ear.  Another person involved in the scuffle was shot with a Taser by police.

  (Photo courtesy of the BBC - The fights were held in the garage of Claire Parker's home).

District Judge Richard Blake said: "There's widespread public objection at these sorts of offences; of the sadistic abuse of animals for entertainment.

"The dogs in this case are not in any way pets - they are animals used for sadistic entertainment and perverted pleasure."

Parker was banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

The court found the syndicate had links to a gang in Northern Ireland, with paramilitary connections, who supplied illegal American pit bull dogs.  Members of the ring attended fights as far away as Finland.

Adamson, pleaded guilty to six charges in connection with illegal dogfighting, was given 23 weeks in prison.

Farooq was found guilty on two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and possessing training equipment for dogfighting, was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 26 weeks.

Batey was given 23 weeks in jail, having admitted setting two pitbulls on each other, being present at a dogfight and owning a pitbull.

Burgess pleaded guilty to one charge of keeping a banned dog, received 160 hours' community service.

Both Adamson and Batey were banned from keeping animals for life.

Update 10/1/09:    At Lincoln Magistrates' Court, Kenneth King was jailed for 23 weeks.

He was also banned from keeping animals for life and ordered to pay £1,500 costs after admitting eight charges including taking part in dogfights.

King has lodged an appeal against his sentence, while two other defendants are appealing against their convictions and sentences.

One is Claire Parker, the other is Mohammed Nasir Farooq.

Reference:

The Guardian BBC News
Dog Magazine