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Former Grantham man banned from keeping dogs is convicted of dog fighting offences

A former Grantham man who was banned from keeping dogs after training them for fighting has been convicted of further offences.

John Herbert Knibbs, 55, was the leader of a group who trained and bred dogs to fight and was convicted at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Tuesday) after a seven-day trial.

Knibbs, of Polyanthus Drive, Sleaford, was convicted in his absence for a number of offences including keeping and training dogs for fighting, ear cropping, and causing unnecessary suffering to a bull terrier called Baddy and another called Panther by failing to provide veterinary care for their injuries.

John Herbert Knibbs (7309196)
John Herbert Knibbs (7309196)

Kimberleigh Joanne Steele, 29, of Polyanthus Drive, Sleaford, was also convicted in absence for aiding and abetting Mr Knibbs who was already in breach of a disqualification ban.

Knibbs was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009 when he was disqualified from keeping animals for life. At the time, he was living in Harrowby Lane, Grantham. He was convicted of breaching his ban in 2016. On investigation of a second breach of the ban, police and the RSPCA obtained a warrant in September 2017 to search a premises in Sleaford.

Baddy, a dog used by John Knibbs in dog fighting. (7309505)
Baddy, a dog used by John Knibbs in dog fighting. (7309505)

It was here that 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, including a ‘flirt pole’, a long pole with a rope attached, and a ‘break stick’, a tool commonly used to break up a dog fight. There were also messages and photos on Knibbs’ mobile phone which led to two other addresses - and the people connected with these became the subject of two further warrants on November 2, 2017.

Dogs fighting in footage taken by John Knibbs and discovered by RSPCA officers. (7309591)
Dogs fighting in footage taken by John Knibbs and discovered by RSPCA officers. (7309591)

One led to an address in Willows End, Bloxholm, Lincolnshire, and one in Anglesey, Wales, where Panther, who was scarred from fighting, was found.

Adam Scott, of Aber Eilian Bach, LLaneilian, Amlwch, Anglesey, was convicted for having in his possession or custody two Pitbull terrier type dogs, contrary to Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, as well as aiding and abetting a disqualification order for Knibbs.

A warrant is out for the arrest of Stephen John Gardner, 57, of Willows End, Bloxholm, Lincolnshire, who failed to attend court.

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.’

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’.”

Scott was sentenced and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs, £80 victim surcharge, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.

Knibbs has not yet been sentenced as he was not present in court, said an RSPCA spokeswoman.

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