Leader of dog fighting gang convicted [Warning: upsetting images/video]


Investigation concerning a breached ban on keeping animals for life resulted in the prosecution of a Sleaford man for dog fighting – a crime he had already been convicted for.

John Herbert Knibbs, 55, of Sleaford, was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009. He was disqualified from keeping animals for life, then convicted for breaching the ban in 2016. While investigating of a second breach of ban, police and the RSPCA searched his premises in Sleaford in September 2017. They found eight dogs – including an American Bulldog, a Bully Kutta cross Presa Canario, and a Pitbull terrier.

The investigation uncovered “paraphernalia commonly used by people involved in dog fighting”. This included a ‘flirt pole’, a long pole with a rope attached, and a ‘break stick’, commonly used to break up a dog fight.

Knibbs was convicted in absence for “a number of allegations including keeping and training dogs for fighting, ear cropping, and causing unnecessary suffering to a bull terrier called Baddy [below] and another called Panther, failing to failing to provide veterinary care for their injuries”. Kimberleigh Joanne Steele, 30, was also convicted in absence for “aiding and abetting” Mr Knibbs, who was already in breach of a disqualification ban.

RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall, from the charity’s Special Operations Unit who investigated, said, “Some of these dogs had been trained to fight and some of them had been left suffering with horrible injuries from fighting.

“Although we never found the body of Baddy, the pictures and subsequent text messages about the fight revealed that there were severe puncture wounds to his head and the enforced fight between Baddy and a much larger Presa Canario was gruelling, lasting a total of 45 minutes. The videos also showed further evidence of this cruel and barbaric practice and the suffering of these dogs would have been horrendous.”

The videos taken on Knibbs’ mobile phone showed dogs being forced to fight, and another running on a treadmill – a common training technique used to build up strength for fighting dogs. Text messages referred to the ‘45 minute’ fight revealing that “Baddy went in to kill him and the Presa jumped out of window to get away”. Another text revealed that one of the dogs could ‘crush all his bones with one bite.’

Text messages on Mr Knibbs’ phone contained more than gruesome descriptions: they also provided valuable leads. Soon police and the RSPCA were searching two more addresses – one in Willows End, Bloxholm, and one in Anglesey, Wales, where fight-scarred Panther was found.

The occupant of the first address – Stephen John Gardner, 58 – failed to appear in court, and a warrant is out for his arrest. The man connected to the Anglesey address, Adam Scott, was convicted for having in his possession or custody two Pitbull terrier type dogs, as well as “aiding and abetting a disqualification order for Mr Knibbs”. Mr Scott was sentenced ordered to pay £3,000 in costs, plus £80 victim surcharge, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.

Insp Withnall added, “This was an organisation involved in keeping and breeding of dogs for fighting, owned and run by Mr Knibbs, a convicted dog fighter who had changed his name to John Donaghy to try and remain undetected.

“The court heard that this group were set on breeding a very large dog, possibly for fighting, which they referred to as the ‘ultimate dog’.”

Images courtesy of RSPCA



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