Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Fox hunter Neil Pinkerton gets dog back after being cleared of animal cruelty

Animal groups outraged as terrier to be returned to owner

By Christopher Woodhouse

A man acquitted of animal cruelty charges will get to keep his terrier dog despite it suffering horrific injuries in a savage night-time hunt.

Our picture shows Neil Pinkerton’s dog Judy left brutally cut and bleeding after grappling with a fox during the hunt.

Pinkerton (30) was charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog and the fox, but walked free from Belfast Crown Court last month after the judge directed the jury to acquit him.

An application to have the black and tan terrier disposed of by the police was withdrawn at Belfast Magistrates Court last week, meaning he will get the animal back. Judy was injured when Pinkerton and another friend took her hunting for foxes in late 2016.

He posted graphic images and video of the hunt, which is legal in Northern Ireland, on the private Facebook group North Coast Lurchers on the Beam.

In the clip, the fox can be seen locked muzzle to muzzle with Judy after the pair were dug out from the wild animal’s underground den.

Pinkerton was charged after a member of the public contacted an anti-hunting group, which then passed on the information to police.

He was accused of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, namely a terrier and a fox, both on December 28, 2016.

Pinkerton faced a third charge of causing the terrier unnecessary suffering by failing to treat or get it “adequate’’ veterinary treatment on January 25, 2017, the date it was seized by police at his home.

But he walked out of Belfast Crown Court after his one-day trial was brought to an end when Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland directed the jury to clear him.

Judge McFarland told the jury the fox clearly had the dog by the muzzle and “no suffering was caused to the fox’’.

He also said evidence from a vet who examined Judy after she was seized stated she would have been “in discomfort”, but added the pair were only attached for a short period of time.

The decision sparked outrage from anti-hunting groups, including the League Against Cruel Sports NI. The news that Pinkerton will now get his dog back further shocked campaigners.

Janice Watts, senior public affairs officer for the League Against Cruel Sports NI, told Sunday Life: “We are appalled and sickened that Judy is being returned to Pinkerton given how she suffered at his hands.

“The pictures of Judy’s horrific injuries speak for themselves, yet our justice system is allowing her to go back to Pinkerton.

“The League Against Cruel Sports and PSNI worked very hard to ensure that the person behind this awful brutality was appropriately punished.

“We would like to thank the PSNI for their hard work and assistance throughout this case.”

Sunday Life previously reported how bloodthirsty Pinkerton relished getting his dogs to kill foxes in a closed Facebook group.

He wrote in the North Coast Lurchers Under the Beam page: "Fantastic hunt today, dug (a) lovely fox for wee bitch...big f***** killed the thing in (the) hole, crushed its head. Fs. Lol."

In another exchange seen by Sunday Life, he boasted to a fellow member: "That lurcher killing them but to kill and draw, fs!".

Pinkerton also shared a graphic video of one hunt and sickening images of both the dead fox and the savaged, bleeding dog, captioned: "One's going to feel this in the morning, one's not".

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where hunting with dogs is still legal.

Investigating officer, Sergeant Phil Neill told Sunday Life: “Following a report of animal cruelty, police were provided with video footage of an incident and conducted an in depth investigation.

"A file was submitted to the public prosecution service which subsequently took the case to court.

“Police take all reports of animal cruelty extremely seriously and investigate offences under breaches of the Welfare of Animals Act.

"No animal should be made to endure cruelty and we ask members of the public to report suspected incidents to the authorities. Police can assure the public that each incident will be thoroughly investigated.”

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