Depraved Millden Estate gamekeeper jailed – SSPCA statement

Further to the news that Rhys Owen Davies, 28, a gamekeeper employed by Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, has been jailed for sadistic animal cruelty crimes (see here and here), the Scottish SPCA who led this investigation has issued the following statement:

Former gamekeeper sentenced for animal fighting

A gamekeeper who indulged in sick animal fights has been sentenced to eight months in prison and a 15-year ban on owning or keeping animals.

Rhys Davies, 28, who now resides in Wales, was convicted at Forfar Sheriff Court today. Under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, Davies was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to four dogs under his care and keeping or training dogs for the purposes of animal fights.

With support from Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA executed a warrant at Turnabrae house on Millden Estate in Angus in October 2019, where Davies worked as a gamekeeper at the time.

The Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit (SIU) had received intel that Davies’ was heavily involved in using his dogs to fight and bait wild animals. Davies sent over 50 pictures featuring severely injured dogs and individuals posing with dead animals to be printed in May 2019. A member of staff at the company flagged these to the Scottish SPCA.

The SIU visited Davies’ address in October 2019, where eleven dogs were being kept in kennels and an outbuilding. A vet in attendance confirmed some of the dogs had fresh and historic injuries and disfigurement likely caused by fighting wild animals such as badgers and foxes. A collar inside the property tested positive for badger DNA.

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.

At the address, investigators found evidence to suggest Davies’ had attempted to treat injuries himself. This included syringes, staplers and prescription-only medication for animals. An analysis of Davies’ phone found messages where he discussed both the fights he was involved in and the attempts to treat the injuries his dogs had sustained from these.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “All of the hallmarks of a person involved in animal fighting can be found in this case. 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.


I’ll be blogging more about this case shortly…

18 thoughts on “Depraved Millden Estate gamekeeper jailed – SSPCA statement”

  1. This man is obviously an idiot as well as a sadistic purveyor of cruelty to animals. How did he think he would get away with it? Surely all such people cannot be so confident that they will not be caught?

    it is obviously a good thing that he has been punished with a prison sentence. But I think this case points to one of the most obvious problems in cases of animal cruelty and wildlife persecution. Magistrates and jurors can relate to the mistreatment of domestic animals like dogs. It seems that they cannot relate in any way to the pain and injuries sustained by wild animals when they are subjected to mistreatment and cruelty, despite the fact that they suffer just as much as domestic animals do. Double standards.

    1. Most of his type hold the opinion that the authorities will never catch up with them. They are usually right that most police haven’t a clue what to look. The hardline keepers also held (in my experience) the view that the RSPCA SPCA / RSPB / LACS / RSPB are all just soft townies who will never put in enough hard slog to catch them. That is what breeds their reckless arrogance / sense of untouchability. ps whose quad is that in the photo? Number plate, got to be personalised -“DIG” !

    2. No magistrates or jurors were involved in this case. It was decided by a sheriff, sitting in a summary court.

      The maximum custodial sentence that the sheriff could have imposed was 12 months. The offender pled guilty in May. When sentencing the court must take into account the stage of the proceedings when the accused pled guilty. It is common to discount the sentence if the accused pleads guilty. The sheriff would have stated the discount in open court (although I don’t think that any of the reports contain this). The discount is usually not more than one-third of what the original sentence would have been. Two-third of the maximum sentence is 8 months.

      The Scottish Sentencing Council has a good article on the factors taken into consideration when sentencing :

  2. While I am glad that this dangerous man has been removed from society, it won’t solve the problem.
    His depraved behaviour indicates he is mentally ill. If this issue isn’t addressed he will almost certainly offend again.
    Another important issue is that people who commit these sadistic offences against animals are also a danger to humans. He should be risk assessed as he is a potential danger to anyone who comes into contact with him

  3. This case highlights the great work that SSPCA can do.
    Surely they will be given the powers they need to hel0 combat wildlife crime.

    If not why not

  4. My first reaction upon reading this is that this man is a danger to humans too. My second is that he must be some sort of psychopath (I’m not a psychiatrist). And my third is that his sentence is not nearly long enough.

    1. He is a potential danger to humans. 16% of violent offenders have committed offences against animals.
      He should be risk assessed before being released from prison.

  5. From the evidence quoted – photographs and phone messages – there were clearly other people involved. Have any of them been prosecuted?

  6. The photographs show that his man did not act alone in his deprived acts of animal cruelty. It is beyond belief that his actions were not known to other members of Millden Estate staff as he occupied tied accommodation. Are there any prosecutions of other individuals relating to this case pending?

  7. The wider issue here is how he managed to behave as he did without any of his game keeping colleagues, his neighbours on the estate, or his employers knowing what he was up to.

    Hardly seems credible.

  8. Far too short a sentence for such depravity and cruelty to wild animals as well as his own dogs. A despicable
    character who should have been put behind bars for the maximum penalty allowed by law.
    Thanks to the SSPCA officers involved in this case. You are outstanding for the way you conduct yourselves in such criminal cases. I salute you..

    1. “Far too short a sentence for such depravity…” yes, but no longer applicable: sentencing for these crimes has already been substantially increased.

  9. It is extremely telling how the only news outlets that have reported on this thus far, are the Daily Record, Wales Online and something called Press24. Noticeably absent from an internet search are such popular publications as the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Times, Sun and indeed the BBC, governed as it is by a majority of Conservative donors and members hand-picked by the Culture Secretary at the time, John Whittingdale.

    You would think that such extreme sadism toward dogs and wildlife would be in the public interest, but then It doesn’t take much research to discover that these ‘news’ papers are heavily invested in the wildlife crime, sorry, ‘shooting and conservation’ business themselves, the former editor of the Daiy Mail Paul Dacre once owning Langwell Estate near Ullapool, for which he has recieved around £500,000 in government subsidies.

    Johnson, his predecessor Cameron and his father in law, and a whole list of government ministers, relations, chums and hangers-on are also enthusiastic killers, and as they are on first-name terms with the top staff in the right-wing press, it’s no surprise that this Rhys Owen Davies appears a lone aberrant rather than an accurate rerpesentation of the whole rotten game shooting system.

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