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‘Farmers have got a licence to kill’
A mother said farmers have been given "a licence to kill" after magistrates cleared a former army marksman of animal cruelty for shooting dead her son's Dalmatian puppy.
Terence John Blackburn, 73, of Myrtle Farm, Cross Roads, Keighley, shot Bandit, a nine-month-old puppy belonging to Sebastian Beckett, 14, after seeing two white dogs chasing his sheep.
He told Bingley Magistrates Court yesterday he was "definitely shooting to kill" Bandit and its mother, Dfor, when he saw them in a field on his farm in Denholme.
But the farmer, who told the court he was a marksman in the Second World War, said he did so because he believed the two dogs were worrying his sheep on February 13, last year.
He said he had seen two "white-coloured" dogs running "backwards and forwards" and chasing pregnant ewes - seven of which later died - into woodland at his farm. He shouted and screamed at the dogs and they ran off, the court heard.
The farmer, a diabetic, then decided to go back to Keighley to eat lunch because he was beginning to feel unwell, he said.
When he got home, he discovered his dinner was not ready and then took a rifle and three shotgun cartridges back to the Denholme farm.
Mr Blackburn said: "As I walked up I saw the dogs in the same place as they were originally. Their tails were up in the air and their noses were on the ground. They were going backwards and forwards following the trail of the sheep.
"They were hunting and when there are two dogs, they are a pack and they don't stop. There was no one there to stop them. They meant business."
As he walked over a hill while loading his gun, Mr Blackburn saw Dfor run for the corner of the field and shot at the dog, causing injuries. He also shot at Bandit as it ran past, fatally injuring the puppy.
Mr Blackburn's solicitor Robin Frieze asked the farmer why he had shot the dogs. He replied: "For the simple reason that I knew they would go back for my sheep."
Mr Blackburn, who has been a farmer for nearly 60 years, said it was the first time in two decades he had had to kill a dog. He said: "It is shocking. It is not our job to kill livestock, it is our job to keep them alive. I don't know a farmer who loves shooting a dog. It is not the dog's fault. It is the owner's."
Emma Downing, for the RSPCA, asked him whether he was sure the dogs he shot were those that chased his sheep earlier.
Mr Blackburn replied: "That is ridiculous. I am not mistaken, no. Once a farmer has seen an animal, he never forgets it."
Earlier in the case, the court heard evidence from Sebastian Beckett who told the court he was walking the dogs on moorland when he lost sight of them.
He said he saw Mr Blackburn shooting the puppy at "point blank range", which Mr Blackburn denied.
The magistrates decided that the RSPCA had not proved that Mr Blackburn had broken the law when he shot the dogs.
Chairman Glynis Wilkinson said Mr Blackburn "genuinely and reasonably" perceived the dogs to be a threat to his sheep and their unborn lambs.
Following the verdict, Sebastian Beckett's mum, Dot Hardaker, of Ogden Lane, Denholme, said: "I am utterly gutted. The magistrates have given farmers a licence to kill as far as I am concerned.
"I am proud of my son for wanting to tell what happened that day. He was very brave but now he is very upset."