Dog breeders who amassed tens of thousands of online followers have been banned from keeping dogs for five years after they were found to have been illegally cropping the puppies' ears.
Rory Canny and Sophie Louise Snell, who appear on the BullylairUK instagram and Youtube channel, appeared at Colchester Magistrates' Court after an RSPCA investigation found several dogs at their home which had had their ears cut.
The pair bred dogs from their home in St Osyth Road East in Clacton, and started sharing videos and images online of their "famous" bulldog, Enzo, and of the puppies they were breeding.
The BullylairUK instagram account has 33,600 followers and the Youtube channel includes some videos that have racked up more than 60,000 views.
They boasted online that they were "one of the UK's leading XL bully kennels".
But it was the couple's social media output that ultimately lead to their conviction.
RSPCA officers were monitoring the images on social media and noticed that puppies, who were initially shown with their ears intact, were later posted with their ears clearly having been cut.
In her witness statement, RSPCA inspector Caroline Richardson said: "An image posted on 9 May 2020 shows an entire litter of puppies with whole ears, on BullylairUK Instagram page, stating they are four weeks old.
"One of the puppies, Bjorn, is then posted about in December 2020 with cropped ears.
"Canny and Snell both confirmed in interview this is the same dog and that they bred the dog."
Three other puppies, Tiger Lily, Nylah and Saber Tooth, could also be seen on the same Instagram account with whole ears, but when the RSPCA visited, the dogs all had cropped ears.
Initially, the couple lied and denied breeding the dogs or cropping their ears, saying they came from other kennels or were bought from Bulgaria.
They later admitted their part in the offences.
Ear cropping is illegal in England and Wales, under Section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Both Canny and Snell were disqualified from keeping dogs for five years.
Canny was also given a 12-week prison sentence - suspended for 12 months - and Snell was given a curfew (9pm-6am) for six months.
Both were ordered to pay £600 in costs each while Snell was ordered to pay a £90 victim surcharge and Canny a £122 victim surcharge.
Speaking after sentencing, Ms Richardson said: "Ear cropping is an horrific practice which has absolutely no benefits for the dogs and can cause them lifelong health, behavioural and social problems.
"This is done purely for cosmetic purposes and sadly can lead to puppies being sold for much more money - but we’d urge the public and anyone looking to buy a puppy to remember that this is an illegal procedure which has hugely negative impacts for the dogs themselves."
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