A dog breeder has been banned from keeping animals for 20 years after he bought a 12-week-old puppy knowing its ears had been illegally cropped. 

James Musk, 37, admitted being involved in the mutilation of the female American XL Bully puppy called Ocean that he arranged to buy just days after its ear flaps had been cut off to make it look more menacing.

The illegal procedure, which left just a few centimetres of cartilage, led to the dog’s wounds becoming infected.

Eastern Daily Press: The mutilated ears of American Bully puppy Ocean became infected after they were illegally croppedThe mutilated ears of American Bully puppy Ocean became infected after they were illegally cropped (Image: RSPCA)

Musk and his then partner Megan Caston, 27, failed to provide pain relief, antibiotics or seek help from vets, Norwich Magistrates Court heard.

The RSPCA were called in when the dog’s plight was discovered after a police search in Ditchingham, near Bungay, on February 9 this year.

Sara Pratt, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said photos found on Musk’s phone showed him with Ocean still with her ears shortly before buying her.

Messages exchanged with a dog breeder in Leicestershire included one stating: “I’ll speak to someone, I’ll get the ball rolling”, which Ms Pratt said was a reference to having the puppy’s ear cropped.

Other XL dogs, breeds 100 pounds and above, with previously cropped ears were also discovered during the search, including another American Bully called King Kong. 

Illegally cropping dog’s ears, often carried out to make them look fiercer, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison

However it remains legal in America and parts of Europe and is promoted by celebrities on social media, Ms Pratt told the court.

READ MORE: Unlicensed dog breeder fined £10,000 in court

Musk, of Windmill Green, Ditchingham, had earlier pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering and aiding a prohibited procedure

Eastern Daily Press: American Bully puppy Ocean was cared for by the RSPCA and is now recovering well at a foster homeAmerican Bully puppy Ocean was cared for by the RSPCA and is now recovering well at a foster home (Image: RSPCA)

Gina Mattioli, defending, said: “This is not a case where the defendant performed the surgery himself or that he was present when it was done. But he accepts his involvement in that he was aware that it was being carried out.” 

Magistrates sentenced him to a total of 20 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and banned him from owning or looking after animals for 20 years. 

“You must have had some knowledge that, at best, this was dubious practice and at worst that it was illegal,” they said.

Caston, of Barley Close, Harleston, who admitted causing unnecessary suffering, was handed an eight week jail sentence suspended for a year and was banned from involvement with animals for 10 years.

READ MORE: Gracie the dog abandoned in Norfolk finds forever home

Speaking after the case RSPCA Inspector Dean Astillberry said: “Ear cropping is a horrific immoral, unnecessary and repulsive practice which has absolutely no benefits for the dogs and can cause them lifelong health, behavioural and social problems.

Eastern Daily Press: RSPCA Inspector Dean AstillberryRSPCA Inspector Dean Astillberry (Image: Newsquest)

“This is done purely for cosmetic purposes. We would urge the public and anyone looking to buy a puppy to remember this is an illegal procedure, which has a hugely negative impacts for the dogs themselves.

“I am pleased to say Ocean is doing very well and is thriving in her foster home and we would like to thank the Norfolk police officers for all their help and support with this case.”

A spokesperson for Norfolk police said officers had carried out a warrant under the Animal Welfare Act with the RSPCA when Ocean was seized and taken into care. 

“Ocean was not microchipped, was unregistered, and had had her ears recently cut off to the base,” they added.

“Her wounds were infected and had ineffective stitching, showing the illegal practice to have been conducted without any appropriate skill or aftercare.

“Collaborative working between the police and the RSPCA led to a successful prosecution of the owners and should discourage anybody considering this procedure.”