A POACHER who hacked off a fox’s tail as a memento after feeding the live animal to a pack of dogs has been banned from keeping a dog for five years.
Liam Smith had caught the fox in an illegal snare after setting six traps in woodland on the outskirts of Haddington.
Smith, 36, then bagged the injured fox before taking it to a nearby location where other men were waiting with their dogs.
The ferocious pack was then allowed to rip the young female fox apart before Smith lopped off the dead animal’s tail as a gruesome trophy.
Smith was caught out after the body of the fox was discovered in a field and intelligence led police to search his home.
The animal’s tail was found within his home and a subsequent search of the poacher’s car also uncovered traces of fox hair.
Co-accused Craig Aitken, 43, also admitted setting self-locking snares at the town’s East Bearford Farm, one of which was found to have cruelly trapped a roe deer by the antlers.
Aitken’s involvement was discovered after the Scottish SPCA investigators set up a sting operation involving surveillance cameras.
Animal welfare officers have welcomed the dog ban on Smith, stating they hope the sentences will prove to be “a deterrent to anyone else considering taking part in crimes involving wild animals”.
Smith and Aitken, both from Haddington, admitted last August’s offences during an appearance at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in September and both were sentenced yesterday.
Fiscal depute Shona McJannett said Aitken had neither permission from the landowner to set the snares or had attended and passed the now legally required training course.
Ms McJannett said: “The manner the snares were set up was wholly inappropriate and the height they were set up was wholly indiscriminatory.”
Yesterday, defending solicitor Mary Moultrie said Smith, who works full-time for a cleaning business, was “no longer socialising” with those involved in the sick sport and he and his partner were expecting a child early next year.
Both Smith and Aitken appeared in the dock carrying a bag containing their belongings fearing a custodial sentence could be handed down.
But Sheriff Frank Crowe instead decided to issue a community disposal to both men, with Smith banned from owning or keeping a dog for five years and ordered to carry out 130 hours of unpaid work.
Aitken was sentenced to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.
A Scottish SPCA undercover officer said: “We are pleased Smith has received a five-year ban from owning and keeping dogs and that both Smith and Aitken have received community payback orders. Hopefully this will serve as a deterrent to these individuals and to anyone else considering taking part in crimes involving wild animals.”