IN the first legal case of its kind a Burton window cleaner has been ordered to pay more than £1,500 in court costs for killing a squirrel.
Raymond Elliot, of Maple Way, Branston, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, namely a grey squirrel by drowning it to death, when he appeared at Burton Magistrates’ Court.
The RSPCA has claimed the ‘test case’ ruling could pave the way for hundreds of other cases across the country as the extermination of squirrels continues to spiral nationally.
The court heard how grey squirrels had persistently targeted Mr Elliot’s bird feeders in his garden, driving him to buy a cage before trapping the squirrel. He then drowned the squirrel by immersing it in a water butt killing it “almost instantaneously.” Magistrates gave the 58-year-old a six-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £1,547 to cover investigation and legal costs incurred by the animal welfare charity.
John Sutcliffe, prosecuting, said: “This is a very unusual case indeed. It is the first ever case brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in respect of a non-domestic animal. I have prosecuted for over 30 years and with this case I feel considerable sympathy for Mr Elliot.
“Catching and drowning squirrels is becoming a prevalent act and the RSPCA wants it known that this is illegal.
“The defendant was extremely open and frank about his actions. He believed it was the most humane way of disposing of the animal — however, this method is illegal.
“The manufacturers who supply such cages go to great lengths on advising customers how to trap the squirrels, but say nothing about what to do with them thereafter.
“The Forestry Commission gives the advice that squirrels should be caught in a sack, placed in the corner and killed with a single blow to the head with a blunt instrument. However, even this method could result in bludgeoning the animal which would be in breach of section four of the act.”
Doug Walton, defending, said: “The drowning of squirrels and rats is a widespread practice. So what are the alternatives for these people?
“Realistically, I can’t see many people opting to take the creatures to the vets to pay between £30 and £40 a time to have them euthanised.
“And if you follow the Forestry Commission advice you will end up putting squirrels in a sack and clubbing them to death.
Here we have a man of good character that I don’t expect to see back before the court. He regrets his mistake.”