English dognapper who stole pets while touring Scotland jailed

An English dognapper who toured Scotland stealing people’s pets has been jailed and banned from keeping any animals.

Clifford Hodgkins was found guilty at two separate trials of animal cruelty and dognapping and was jailed for 90 days and fined a total of £ 900.

He asked Perth Sheriff Court for “no time to pay” and the fine was converted to a further 28 days in jail, along with a two-year ban on keeping any pets.

The court heard how brazen Hodgkins stole one terrier dog in full view of its owner but was filmed driving away in a distinctive Ford Focus.

The dog’s DNA was recovered from hair and faeces in the car, along with Hodgkins DNA which was found on the handbrake.

Dog owner Alistair McLaren, 22, told the trial he realized Hodgkins, 40, was stealing his dog Harvey in front of his eyes.



Harvey, a terrier mixed with a little bit of Jack Russell, was stolen
Harvey, a terrier mixed with a little bit of Jack Russell, was stolen

Mr McLaren said another one of his dogs started barking because they heard a car approaching the family’s remote rural home.

He said: “I owned five dogs. One of them was Harvey. He’s a terrier mixed with a little bit of Jack Russell. He was stolen.

“It was about 9.30 am on 20 October 2020 and I was working from home. I have got a pet dog inside the house.

“Every time something comes down the drive the dog will bark – no matter who or what it is. I heard the dog bark so I walked through to the living room to look out the window.

“I could see a car parked on the other side of the hedge at the bottom of the garden.

“You can see the road in the distance. I saw someone go into the dog kennel, pick up Harvey and dump the dog in his car.

“He went into the kennel, picked up the dog and chucked it into the blue Ford Focus he was driving.

“I said ‘what are you doing’ and he said ‘nothing,’ he jumped in the car and drove away. That’s when I whipped out my phone and filmed him.

“There was an English accent with a lisp in his speech. During it happening I was on the phone to my dad.”

Mr McLaren said he later posted a message on social media to ask for help in finding his dog and identifying the thief who stole Harvey.

He said one of his friends posted a screenshot of Hodgkins and suggested he may have been the man responsible for taking the dog.

Mr McLaren told the court he then realized that he had seen Hodgkins when he had visited his home a few weeks before the dognapping took place.

Hodgkins, from Kidderminster, was found guilty of stealing a dog from Muir Ale House near Meikleour in Perthshire on 20 October 2020.

He was also found guilty of stealing two Jack Russells and a springer from another address in the same area on the same date.

At the time, their owner – gamekeeper Craig Brown – said: “I had been working on the estate and came back to find the kennels empty.

“It was just shocking, unthinkable. We’d never imagined anything like that could happen here.”

The trial heard that the car was found abandoned and hidden among polytunnels in a field near Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

Three of the dogs were later found more than 400 miles away, in different parts of the West Midlands. The springer remains missing.

Sheriff Francis Gill ordered that the lurcher dog, which is still being held in the care of the police, be re-homed.

Hodgkins claimed he had never driven the car and said it was “a known criminal’s car.” He added: “It was owned by one of the lads on the estate. Everyone used it.”

He said he had only ever been a passenger in the vehicle, but the sheriff did not believe his DNA was only on the handbrake because he had been doing handbrake turns.

Two-year-old Harvey was found days after the theft, roaming around the village of Dodford, Worcestershire. Another dog was handed into a vet in Bromsgrove, while a third was found in a park some 11 miles away.

In a separate trial, Hodgkins was found guilty of animal neglect after his own dog was heard crying in pain after being locked outside in freezing conditions.

The lurcher, called Bruce, was heard “howling” in distress and was found scarred, with cracked paws and an infected claw by SSPCA officers.

Hodgkins told the trial he was only shouting at the animal because dogs were “brain dead.”

Police and the SSPCA swooped on his property in MacDonald Crescent, Rattray, following reports by neighbors that Bruce had been chained up outside when the temperature dropped to minus four.

Hodgkins was found guilty of failing to provide the animal with adequate shelter and exposing it to the elements between 27 and 29 November 2020. He failed to provide a suitable living environment and limited its movement by tethering it.

Sheriff Gill told Hodgkins that he found the evidence of SSPCA officers, police and neighbors to be credible and reliable and said it was clear the dog was left in a state of distress.

The sheriff found a further charge, that tree surgeon Hodgkins, from Blairgowrie, behaved in a threatening or abusive manner and threw stones at the dog, not proven.

Hodgkins told the trial he had bought the dog for £ 400 after seeing it advertised on the internet.

“I bought it on the Friday and the police came and took him on the Sunday,” he said. “It was a pet. I wanted to take him on walks in the countryside.”

He denied neglecting the animal, insisting that the half-built shed – which had no door or windows – was wind-proof, dry and insulated.

Hodgkins rejected claims made by a neighbor that he threw stones at the dog and shouted aggressively at it.

“The dog was whinging because it was in a new environment,” he claimed. “So I told it to get in (the shed) a few times.”

“You have to train them, because they’re brain dead. You have to show him.”

SSPCA inspector Katherine Aitchison told the trial she went to the property – then the home of Hodgkins’ partner – after complaints from residents.

She said Hodgkins answered the door and told her there was no dog in the back garden. She returned with police the following day.

She described the lurcher-type dog in the back garden as “very cold and all hunched up. I think the night before the temperature had dropped to minus four.

“The dog was obviously tired and was shivering. Its tail was between its legs and it had a roached back. That’s not happy body language.”

Ms Aitchison said the dog had access to a wooden shed, which had a tarpaulin sheet with a slit in it instead of a door.

“There was a small blanket on the floor of the shed. It wasn’t providing much comfort and it definitely wasn’t providing any heat.”

The dog was taken into SSPCA care and examined. Ms Aitchison said it had cracks on its paws, an infected claw and scarring on its face.

“He relaxed after a few minutes of being in the heat,” she said.

Neighbor Karen Thorburn told the trial she was kept awake by the dog’s “howling,” while another witness, Jenna Muir, said she heard it crying.

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