Ian Draper arrives at Banbury Magistrates' Court A man who held organised dog fights in an outhouse behind his father's pub in a quiet Oxfordshire village has been sent to prison.

Ian Draper, 41, of Walker's Close, Asthall, was arrested during a nationwide swoop on people involved in what the RSPCA described as the "Premiership" of dog fights.

Appearing at Banbury Magistrates' Court yesterday, (Monday 16) Draper admitted six charges, including causing unnecessary suffering to dogs, keeping a place for dog fighting and owning an illegal breed of dog.

The RSPCA produced pictures of Charlie, an American Pit Bull Terrier and one of 26 dogs seized during a search of Draper's house on December 1, 2003. The dog was badly scarred, was unable to stand and had been wounded in the previous 24 to 48 hours.

Investigators conducting a search of a the New Inn in Minster Lovell -- owned by Draper's father at the time-- found a blood-stained room in an outbuilding where the fighting took place.

The former greyhound breeder and one-time boxer was sentenced to three months in prison, which could be cut in half for good behaviour, and was banned from owning dogs for 10 years.

A charge against Draper's father, Martin Draper, 67, of Wenrisc Drive, Minster Lovell, was withdrawn. Mr Draper snr had been accused of allowing the pub to be used for fighting. Paddy Roche, prosecuting, told the court: "It's a very organised activity. Fights are arranged about three months in advance to allow owners to put their dogs through a training schedule.

"These are widely published on the Internet, and known as a 'keep'. Dog fights always involve dogs of about the same size and the same weight.

"It's a feature of dog fighting that owners will have their own personal veterinary kit, because if a dog is injured it can't be taken to a professional. Few dogs die in the fight itself, although some die as a consequence of shock or dehydration after the match."

While searching Draper's house and a Mitsubishi van parked outside, police and RSPCA officers found blood-stained syringes, a copy of Black's Veterinary Dictionary, 163 photographs of dogs, two sets of weighing scales, and two treadmills.

In a tiled outbuilding at the back of the New Inn, investigators found a 12ft area of carpeting stained with "large amounts" of blood. Carpet is usually laid in a pit to stop the dogs slipping.

A blood sample taken from Charlie matched that found on wooden panels seized from a suspected pit in Liverpool on the same day. Draper claimed the fight in Liverpool happened before he bought the dog.

Clive Rees, defending, said Draper was a family man with no previous convictions, and that he separated from his family two months ago because of the pressures of the case.

Mr Rees added: "It's the start of a career which was nipped in the bud. Had it not been for the intervention of the RSPCA it would probably have increased at a rate of knots."

District judge Brian Loosley told Draper: "You were part of a ring, an organised enterprise. I don't know where you were in that ring, but there's no doubt you had been involved in this activity for a while."

Of the 26 dogs seized, many of them puppies, 16 were returned to Draper and have since been sold. The other 10 kept by the RSPCA were Pit Bull Terriers, an illegal breed, and Mr Loosley ordered them to be destroyed.

The pub has since changed hands, and is under new management.