Man caused unnecessary suffering to terrier and fox in hunt, court told
A man from Belfast has gone on trial accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog and a fox on December 28, 2016.
Neil Frederick Pinkerton (30), from Clandeboye Street, also denies a third charge of causing the terrier further suffering by failing to treat it or get it adequate veterinary treatment on January 25, almost a month later.
Prosecutor David Russell told the Belfast Crown Court jury of seven men and five women: "This is not about your view on hunting or your view on animals, but a case that should be looked at it in a cold, objective fashion."
The jury was shown two short video clips, the first of a black and tan terrier type bitch and a fox "locked together... muzzle to muzzle or jaw to jaw".
In the second clip someone is seen digging the animals out of the fox hole.
In both clips a man could be heard praising the terrier, calling out: "Good girl Judy."
The sound of whimpering could also be heard.
The court heard that while the hunting of foxes was entirely legal in Northern Ireland, either or above ground, or below, by sending a dog down a fox hole, both animals had to be separated as soon as possible afterwards.
However, Mr Russell claimed that according to the footage no attempts were made to separate the terrier and fox. He said that both could be seen being held - the fox by a man with his hands around its neck, and the terrier being held either by its "collar or by the scruff of the neck".
The lawyer revealed the footage and pictures, allegedly taken from Pinkerton's Facebook page, were handed to police by Janice Watt of the League Against Cruel Sports, who had been alerted to an internet site for 'North Coast Lurchers on the Beam'.
Mr Russell told the jury they could draw the conclusion from the clips that the terrier was wounded around the mouth or jaw area, although it was not possible to say if this occurred underground or above ground. However, he said the failure to separate the animals caused them unnecessary suffering, as their pain had been prolonged.
When questioned, Pinkerton mostly gave a no comment interview to police.
Later the officer in charge of the case agreed with defence QC Neil Connor that in later photographs of the fox, it did not appear to have been "mauled to death by a dog, or group of dogs".
However, when asked if the picture of the fox was consistent with the animal having been "dispatched by shooting", Judge David McFarland intervened saying he thought the jury could draw "their own conclusions".
A Belfast City Council welfare officer also accepted that by the time she saw the dog, the puncture wounds around the mouth area "were in the process of healing", while others "were scabbing over", normally occurring near the end of the "healing process".
She further agreed that the dog did appear to be in a reasonable condition, and appeared well fed and watered. A vet, Dr Cahir King, told the court that in his view the terrier was still suffering when he saw the animal on January 15 last year and treated its wound because he "believed it was in pain". The vet claimed the animals were suffering on the video because no efforts were being made to separate them in a timely fashion.
Under cross examination, Dr King rejected defence suggestions that it was "perfectly acceptable", as seen on the video, for the fox and terrier to be "simply held" in the full knowledge, from experience, that the fox would release its grip.
Dr King maintained that in his view he "did not think they were being held so they would part... but being held for the camera", and later repeated the claim they were being "held together for entertainment... and that constitutes unnecessary suffering".