Kirkwood family members admit animal fighting charges

Media caption,
The animal attacks were filmed on mobile phone

Three members of an east Belfast family have admitted animal cruelty offences described by the police and USPCA as among the most serious they have seen.

Jeremiah Kirkwood, 43, and sons Chris, 23, and Wayne, 20, of Island Street, admitted keeping animals for fighting.

They also pleaded guilty to having equipment in connection with animal fights and causing unnecessary suffering to four puppies.

Jamie Morrow, 19, of McAllister Court, pleaded guilty to similar charges.

All four were released on bail ahead of sentencing.

The investigation into the family's activities began more than two years ago when video footage was recovered from a mobile phone.

One clip showed dogs being set on a badger. In another, the same dogs were set on a cat that had been trapped in a cage, tearing it to pieces.

A police officer welcomed the men's guilty pleas and said people should contact them if they had suspicions about such activity.

East Belfast MP Naomi Long also welcomed the convictions.

"I have seen some of the footage which formed part of this case and it was horrific to say the least," she said.

"This kind of vile brutality towards animals should have no place in a decent society.

"I cannot comprehend the mind of a person who could bring themselves to partake in such appallingly cruel behaviour."