Pup’s ear cropping was a ‘butcher’s job’

Sheriff Donald Ferguson described the illegal ear-clipping of American Bully pup Russia as a "butcher's job".
Sheriff Donald Ferguson described the illegal ear-clipping of American Bully pup Russia as a "butcher's job".

Two women have been banned from selling dogs after admitting being involved in the ear-cropping of an American bully puppy.

They pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges as a sheriff described the operation on the puppy as a “butcher’s job.”

A vet who inspected the wounds of the dog said it had been carried out for “cosmetic” purposes and added it was “needless mutilation”.

Dawn Hillbeck, 25, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to prevent the ear flaps being removed on a puppy, called Russia, under her care.

Her 23-year-old partner Louise Hillbeck admitted permitting Russia to be taken out of Scotland for the prohibited procedure.

The offence happened when the women were breeding American bullies – which sell for up to £5,000 each – at their then home at Whisgills, near Newcastleton, last year.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court was told that ear-cropping was banned in most of Europe, but was still allowed in the United States.

The American bully is a new breed established in the 1990s, using a foundation of American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers bred to several bulldog-type breeds.

Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser said: “They are very strong-looking dogs and some owners have their ears cropped for cosmetic reasons which makes them look mean and aggressive.”

Mr Fraser said the Scottish SPCA received information that the Hillbecks were involved in ear-cropping and went to their home in Newcastleton last April when they found Russia had recently has both earflaps removed.

He explained a nylon-type material had been used to stitch the wounds, but they had been put in too tightly. the wounds were red and the dog looked in pain.

Mr Fraser said: “They failed to seek veterinary treatment for the wounds. One vet referred to it as cosmetic needless mutilation.”

The fiscal added he would be seeking an order disqualifying the women from owning animals due to their behaviour. Russia was signed over to the Scottish SPCA during the investigation.

The women claimed the idea to ear crop the dog came from a named co-owner, who they claim said they would need to do it for Russia if the dog was to do well in American bully display shows.

Defence lawyer Ross Dow said Dawn Hillbeck had been told the earcropping could be done in Poland where it was legal, but it was not stated in court where the operation had actually happened.

He said: “The pair have been naive in this to a certain extent. They were also told it would be good for the hygiene of the dog as well.

“They have learned their lesson. Disqualifying them from owing animals would be disproportionate.”

The court was told that Dawn Hillbeck owned four dogs and a horse which she would have to give up if she was banned.

The Hillbecks have since moved from Scotland to Bromborough in Merseyside.

On studying pictures of the dog’s wounds, Sheriff Donald Ferguson described them as a “butcher’s job” and said the women knew full well it was illegal and the dog had suffered.

He added: “This was totally wrong and this animal suffered. On top of that, you were doing it for profit.

“At the end of the day you were looking after this animal and it was your responsibility to look after it within the law and on a proper basis.”

He imposed a Community Pay Back Order for one year with supervision and conduct requirements and a condition that officers from the RSPCA or the SSPCA were permitted to inspect any animal in their care.

Sheriff Ferguson imposed a five-year disqualification order from selling animals.

He stopped short of banning them from owning animals which allows Dawn Hillbeck to keep her four dogs and horse.

In addition, they were both ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work.

Afterwards, a Scottish SPCA spokeswoman said there was a growing trend in ear-cropped American bullies.

She explained:”We are pleased with the outcome of this case.

“Two years ago, we didn’t have a single American bully in our care. However, we are now seeing a worrying increase in the number of these dogs seized as a result of our investigations.

“The recent increase is entirely down to the current trend to own these dogs as a status pet.

“In the UK, any surgical procedure carried out for purely aesthetic purposes is illegal. Ear-cropping is one of these procedures.”