William Donnelly, prosecuting, told how 48-year-old Stockton keeps and breeds Akita dogs and on September 20 last year two of the animals escaped from a compound at his rural home at Aldreds Farm, Jacks Lane, Westhoughton.
Mr Donnelly said: “There is an arrangement between him and his neighbours so if dogs do escape from his otherwise secure compound then he texts them and warns them.”
Stockton sent the text to his farming neighbours so they could safeguard their livestock and at nearby Reeves Hall Farm in Dodd Lane, Westhoughton, the owners stabled the miniature horses they breed.
But at 9pm Stockton had not recaptured his dogs and at 9.15pm Jack Russells Tilly and Jim were let out into the yard at Reeves Hall Farm to relieve themselves.
Mr Donnelly said: “Almost as soon as they had let these two Jack Russells out into the yard they (the owners) heard the dogs howl in distress.” The owners and their friend, Sally Anne Skelton, rushed outside to find Stockton’s Akitas attacking the little dogs.
The Akitas ran off and were finally caught by Stockton just after midnight.No excuses for this...but wait! I reckoned without the awesome skills of the defence!
Richard Vardon, defending, said Stockton, a father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight, had worked hard to build up his construction business after being released from a “fairly significant” prison sentence several years ago.Hmmm...
He added that Stockton has kept dogs for many years and takes his responsibilities to his community seriously.Just not seriously enough to breed animals that aren't an immediate danger unless secured…
He said: “He will say the dogs normally have a very docile temperament and they play happily with his grandchildren.”Lucky he’s got eight of them then, he won’t miss one or two…
Sentencing Stockton to a £200 fine, Judge Elliot Knopf said he was lucky Ms Skelton was not more seriously hurt.
The court heard that Stockton has had to pay his own legal fees and the cost of kennelling his dogs until the case came to court and he was also ordered to pay £400 towards the prosecution costs and £250 compensation to Ms Skelton.
Judge Knopf added he could not order the destruction of the dog which attacked Ms Skelton as it is not known which of the Akitas injured her and he added he did not consider it necessary to ban Stockton from keeping animals.Of course he didn't. Why should he worry? He's unlikely to live in the sort of neighbourhood where old lags keep dogs so vicious that the procedures should they get free are the sort that zoos have to implement in order to get a licence..