ILLEGAL dog fighting is rife in Flintshire, it has been claimed.

Two emaciated dogs covered in wounds and scars have been taken in by Capricorn Animal Rescue Centre and owner Sheila Stewart believes they had been used as “bait” in the cruel sport.

Lurchers Luke and Leah, who are just nine-months old, are now being cared for by shocked staff at the centre in Padeswood.

Mrs Stewart believes the dogs were used for dog ‘baiting’ – a shocking sport where a more submissive dog is used to keep a fighting dog ‘psyched up’ in between fights.

“They’ve got new wounds and scars from old wounds, I don’t think they could have got them any other way,” she said.

Mrs Stewart says dogs are brought to fight in Flintshire from areas such as Manchester.

She said: “People from outside the area come here because there are rural areas where they can hold fights. It’s usually in very isolated barns. It’s horrific, it really is. It is going on, but the thing is it takes such a lot of work to get evidence.”

Mrs Stewart says dogs used for baiting are rarely fed much.

“Dog baiting is almost like a boxer sparring in between matches,” she said.

“Unfortunately it goes on a lot. The dogs either get killed during baiting or they’ll throw them away after.

“They don’t have to feed them much because they don’t need them to fight back."

Mrs Stewart hopes Luke and Leah, who are now starting to gain weight, will be ready for re-homing in three to four weeks.

“They’re both really sweet natured, very loving and trusting,” she said.

“There is no need for this neglect and cruelty.”

Andy Robbins, press officer for the RSPCA, said there was an increase in ‘informal’ dog fighting and the dogs’ wounds could be a result of this.

He said: “If anybody has any suspicions dog fighting is taking place, let us know. It’s such a clandestine activity, we do our best but we always welcome more evidence.

“It seems to be a trend, people are seeing dogs as status symbols.

“I think for a lot of people it’s just entertainment seeing dogs ripping each other apart. There is money in it as well.

“If caught, we will take them to court.”

Capricorn Animal Rescue is looking for funds to help look after its animals.

Anybody who would like to make a donation or organise a fundraising event should call the shelter on 01244 547938.

Anybody with information relating to dog fighting is asked to call North Wales Police on 101.