A cruel dog breeder who butchered puppies ears with razor blades to make them look tougher before selling them for thousands of pounds to celebrity clients has avoided jail.
A court heard Simon Davis, 34, forced American Bulldogs to endure painful cosmetic surgery before selling them on to high-profile customers including Little Mix star Leigh-Ann Pinnock.
Magistrates were told RSPCA and police carried out a joint raid at his "lucrative" business called Lions Lair Kennels, in Bedworth, Warks., on January 30, last year.
They found seven kennels in a converted garage building in his back garden containing eight American Bulldogs, which he sold for between £3,500 to £7,000.
Seven of the puppies he had bred and sold had cropped ears – a procedure in which part of the ear is cut off with a knife or razor blade to make the dogs look fiercer.
The sick ear-cropping trend, known as docking, is illegal in the UK under the Animal Welfare Act unless it is carried out for medical reasons.
Coventry Magistrates’ Court heard how one of the puppies, called Kyro, was bought by the Little Mix singer and her footballer boyfriend Andre Gray, who plays for Watford.
Dad-of-four Davis admitted seven offences under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court in December.
On Wednesday he avoided jail after being given an 18-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work.
He was also banned from keeping animals for life and ordered to pay more than £10,000 in costs.
Sentencing, chair of the bench Davinder Athwal said: “You receive this sentence because of the unnecessary suffering to animals and financial gains you have made.
“This was a large scale commercial operation.
“You were clearly aware the operation you were running was illegal and accepted the risks associated with running an illegal operation contrary to the welfare of the animals.”
JPs heard a further nine American Bulldogs were found at Davis’s mother’s address nearby, including two pregnant dogs, six of these also had cropped ears.
Davis had sought to buy ear clamps which are attached to the ear and used as a stencil so the desired "uniform shape" is created during the cutting process.
He also wanted to buy a table to carry out operations on and messages on his phone showed seeking the services of a "cropper" from the US, to carry out the process.
Shocking photos found on Davis’s phone by investigators show some of the puppies he bred as they were undergoing the procedure at the premises.
Prosecutor Sara Pratt, for the RSPCA, said: “Simon Davis is the owner of Lions Lair Kennels, a professional commercial enterprise.
“A number of dogs have been bought by celebrities and have created further high-profile publicity for the breed and the business itself.
“Ear cropping for cosmetic reasons is an illegal practice in the UK and may only be undertaken by a qualified veterinary surgeon, and it’s prohibited except for medical reasons.
“The purpose of cosmetic ear cropping is to give the dogs a certain ‘look’, to have a more intimidating or more menacing appearance.
“There is an experience of pain for the dog. The dog would be caused suffering.
“This was a painful procedure for no reason other than cosmetic appearance.
“Davis knew the process of cropping was illegal. In one text he said ‘it’s banned’.
"But despite this he arranged for a cropper to visit the kennels and carry out cropping on the puppies.”
The court heard the seven dogs each charge relates to are called Rambo, Red Rita, Kyro, Lenny, Mercedes, Zino and Omen.
Ms Pratt added: "Kyro is an American Bully owned by Leigh-Ann Pinnock of the successful girl group Little Mix.
"She visited Lions Lair in September 2017 with her famous boyfriend, footballer Andre Gray.
"Video and photo posts on Lions Lair's Instagram account show a lot of puppies were born in January 2018.
"A breeding notebook shows the first male puppy was reserved for Leigh-Ann Pinnock of Little Mix.
"A post on her Instagram in March 2019 showed Kyro and she said 'completely, utterly obsessed'.
"The photo reveals Kyro's ears were cut at that stage.