A former gamekeeper has been jailed for eight months after training dogs to fight and bait wild animals. 

Rhys Davies, 28, was also given a 15-year ban on owning or keeping animals after he was found guilty of causing suffering to four dogs and training them for fighting at Forfar Sheriff Court on Monday. 

He was caught causing unnecessary suffering to the animal after he attempted to print over 50 pictures of severely injured dogs and individuals posing with dead animals. 

A special investigation unit from the Scottish SPCA was tipped off by a member of staff at the company printing pictures in May 2019. 

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Later that year, the animal welfare charity searched Turnabrae house on Millden Estate in Angus in October 2019, where the man worked as a gamekeeper at the time. 

Eleven dogs were found in kennels and an outbuilding - a number of which has fresh and historic injuries likely caused by fighting wild animals. 

Shortly into the investigation, the man was suspended by the estate with immediate effect and later resigned. 

Patterdale terrier Lola had fresh injuries to her mouth and lower jaw. Pip, another Patterdale, had older scars across her muzzle, face and chest and a fresh wound still healing.

The 28-year-old has attempted to treat the dogs himself to avoid being caught. 

Investigators found syringes, staplers and prescription-only medication at the Angus address. 

Messages were also found on his phone where he discussed both the fights he was involved in and the attempts to treat the injuries his dogs sustained.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said "all of the hallmarks" of animal fighting were found in the case. 

He said: "This includes attempting to treat serious injuries without a vet, bragging to others about those injuries and trying to get ‘trophies’ such as photos as keepsakes of those fights.

“Our special investigations unit lead the way when it comes to taking on these organised, brutal groups involved in animal fights. This was an incredibly sophisticated investigation which made it plain as day the accused was guilty and helped to uncover a wider network of individuals involved in heinous animal fights.

“A custodial sentence sends a real message to anyone who wants to use dogs to bait and maim wildlife that they will be punished for it.

“Wildlife persecution is a scourge. No animal deserves to be subjected to any pain or suffering, let alone at the level Mr. Davies subjected his own dogs and wild animals to.

"Today, Mr. Davies has found that animal abuse is unacceptable and comes with major consequences.”

The Scottish SPCA investigates hundreds of reports of serious animal welfare issues such as animal fighting every year. Anyone with concerns or information on this issue can contact the charity’s free animal helpline in confidence on 03000 999 999.

A spokesperson for Milden Estate said: "The estate does not condone or tolerate any illegal activity relating to the welfare of animals or wildlife.

“We were shocked to learn of all the allegations when they came to light.

“The employee involved was suspended by the estate with immediate effect and resigned a few days later when the police investigation was still at an early stage. At no stage was the estate itself the focus of the investigation.”