A barbaric animal abuser posed for pictures with wild animals he set his dogs on to chase and tear apart.

Gruesome photos show Antony Holloway in the countryside with his pets caked in the blood of their prey, as they took part in what he defended as vermin control.

Sheriff William Gallacher rejected the 28-year-old's claims and said by capturing snaps for trophies, it was clear Holloway saw the senseless slaughter as sport.

The thug has escaped a prison sentence and will serve a 270-hour community payback order.

Holloway is also banned from owning dogs for four years, as opposed to for life which prosecutors argued for.

Investigators at the Scottish SPCA, who brought the successful ­undercover investigation to court, were disappointed by the sentence, which was far more lenient than those handed down to recent, less severe, cases in Scottish courts.

The court saw a series of film and stills taken from Holloway’s phone that showed the brute digging out badger setts and holding up a dead fox, which had its jaw ripped off. One still showed a young boy in glasses, grinning as he held a large dead fox.

The court heard Holloway – who was previously jailed for brutal crimes – had fabricated an artificial badger sett to allow pups to practise killing animals.

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Prior to sentence, Sheriff Gallacher had warned Holloway he could face jail. He told him: “What we have seen is barbarity. It’s the sport of doing it, the pleasure of seeing an animal attacking another animal.

“Holding a dead fox in your hand is nothing to do with managing vermin – it’s sport.”

The sheriff nonetheless opted against a lifetime ban after defence lawyer Judith Reid said that would have a serious effect on Holloway’s income. Holloway appeared to expect a jail sentence and had brought a large black bag to court.

The sadist was caught after an intelligence operation by the ­Scottish SPCA’s Special ­Investigation Unit stopped him and an associate at Cairnryan ferry port in Stranraer near October 2019 after a badger baiting trip.

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They had four Patterdale terriers and a Lakeland terrier-type dog with them. All dogs were found with scars and one with fresh wounds consistent with animal fighting. The dogs were seized by the Scottish SPCA.

A full vet’s examination of the dogs showed scarring around the face, head and jaw which is consistent with dogs being used repeatedly to fight animals, predominately badgers.

The court also heard that he was strongly suspected of being involved in dog fighting, after his mobile phone showed he had texted an associate about a fight. It is believed he took his own dogs to Ireland to take part in fights organised by criminal gangs.

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He claimed his regular job is pest control but Joe Stewart, prosecuting, said that was nonsense.

Mr Stewart said: “There were messages sent to an associate that refer to Holloway fighting dogs with another domestic dog. It is certainly the Crown’s position that the offences were not connected with vermin control.

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“I cannot accept that this is legal work. There is no legal way to use dogs to kill other animals. You require a licence to legally kill badgers and this must be done humanely and with a firerarm. The videos and photographs make it crystal clear that the killing of these animals was gratuitous and it was done for fun.

“There are pictures of the accused and his friends digging out badgers and foxes and the purpose was not pest control. It was a blood sport.

“That could be the only motivation for fighting two domestic dogs.”

Holloway was found guilty of training his dogs for the purpose of animal fighting and also convicted of supplying videos of animal fighting.

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