AN attempt to prosecute a man accused of putting down thousands of unwanted greyhounds was delayed again yesterday.

Builders' merchant David Smith faces a charge brought by the Environment Agency relating to the disposal of the carcasses of up to 10,000 dogs.

He is accused of burying them in a makeshift graveyard behind his home, in Northdene Avenue, Seaham, County Durham.

The allegations were made last summer when it was claimed Mr Smith used a bolt gun to kill the greyhounds, taken to him by owners no longer wanting the dogs, over a period of up to 15 years.

Although Mr Smith was questioned by police at the time, it was confirmed the bolt gun said to have been used to kill the greyhounds was held legitimately.

The RSPCA also looked into the case, but the society decided that no animal cruelty regulations were breached as the dogs were killed humanely.

The Environment Agency then began an inquiry into Mr Smith's activities.

Following a six-month investigation, the agency announced late last year that it was to bring a private prosecution against Mr Smith.

The father-of-three is facing a single charge under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations, alleging that he disposed of waste, namely the bodies of deceased dogs, on land without permit, on July 12 last year.

Mr Smith was to have appeared in court last month, but the hearing was adjourned and re- scheduled for yesterday, before Durham magistrates.

But with Mr Smith's attendance excused, representatives of both parties agreed to a further adjournment to allow more time to prepare their respective cases.

A planned protest by the animal rights' group Greyhound Action was abandoned on learning of the planned adjournment, but members are expected to gather at the court for the new hearing date, on Friday, February 16.

Greyhound Action is an international pressure group which aims to draw attention to what it describes as the suffering and slaughter of dogs at the hands of the greyhound industry.

Members plan to lobby the court at the rearranged hearing accompanied by rescued greyhounds.