Man fined £1,500 for drowning a squirrel

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon Jul 19 21:15:33 BST 2010

<<Tim Bonner, a spokesman for the Countryside 
Alliance, said the RSPCA were using the courts as 
a ‘propaganda vehicle’ to push their policy on animal rights.
‘Killing grey squirrels is a good thing – there 
are far too many of them and they threaten our 
native species and woodland,’ he said.>>

First case of it's kind: Man told to pay £1,500 
after being found guilty of drowning a squirrel

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:15 PM on 19th July 2010

Native to the U.S. and Canada, the grey squirrel 
has become increasingly common in Britain, displacing the resident red squirrel

When grey squirrels invaded Raymond Elliott’s 
garden and targeted his bird feeders, he decided 
to take matters into his own hands.

He bought a cage to trap the pests and, when he 
did catch one, dropped it into a water butt, 
killing it ‘almost instantaneously’.

But after a neighbour tipped off the RSPCA, he 
was hauled into court, charged with causing 
unnecessary suffering to an animal and - in a 
legal first - forced to pay £1,500.

The 58-year-old window cleaner, who said he 
believed he had killed the animal in a humane 
way, will now be lumbered with a criminal record.

The case sets an important precedent for killing 
grey squirrels, which are classified as a 
non-native invasive species, and could pave the 
way for hundreds of other prosecutions across the country.

The RSPCA, which brought the prosecution, warned 
that many common methods of killing grey 
squirrels and other pests could now fall foul of the law.

It added that the only humane - and therefore 
legal - way to kill them would be to have them 
put down by a qualified vet, which can cost up to £40 a time.

Mr Elliott, from Branston, Staffordshire, was 
prosecuted under Section Four of the Animal 
Welfare Act 2006 for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

He pleaded guilty and was given a six-month 
conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,547 
to cover investigation and legal costs incurred 
by the RSPCA at Burton Magistrates last Friday.

Yesterday, he described the fine as an 
‘injustice’ and claimed he had been singled out by the charity.

He insisted that the way he killed the grey 
squirrel was not cruel or inhumane and said he 
was simply trying to do what homeowners across 
the country do when the pests invade their homes and gardens.

'This is an injustice. People do it across the 
country all the time - they are just making an example of me,’ he said.

‘I do not feel what I did was inhumane or cruel 
and I was shocked by how big the fine was.

‘All along it was going to be guilty because it 
was a test case and they needed a guilty verdict.’

Section Four of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes 
it illegal to cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal.

The act states that it is an offence to cause 
‘physical or mental suffering, whether this is by 
a positive act or an omission, to a protected 
animal where this is unnecessary.’

But it is not necessary to prove that a defendant 
knew they would be causing suffering.

According to the act, any animal caught in a trap 
may be deemed to be under the control of man and, 
as such, is a ‘protected animal’.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it 
is also illegal to release or allow captured grey 
squirrels to escape in certain circumstances.

Doug Walton, defending, described Mr Elliott as a 
‘man of good character’ who ‘regrets his mistake’.

‘The drowning of squirrels and rats is a 
widespread practice, so what are the alternatives for these people,’ he said.

‘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.’

John Sutcliffe, prosecuting, described the case 
as ‘unusual’ and said it was the first to be 
brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in respect of a non-domestic animal.

He said that Mr Elliott was ‘extremely open and 
frank’ about what he had done and ‘believed it 
was the most humane way of disposing of the animal’.

He also warned that official Government advice - 
that squirrels should be caught in a sack and 
killed with a single blow to the head - could be 
a breach of the act as the animal may suffer before it dies.

Grey squirrels were first introduced into Britain 
from North America in the 19th century and their 
numbers have increased rapidly and are currently 
estimated at over two million, according to Natural England.

They are classed as a non-native invasive species 
and are largely responsible for the decline of 
the native red squirrel in England because they 
compete for food and shelter and are stronger and more adaptable than the red.

Greys also carry the squirrel pox virus, which is 
lethal to red squirrels. They are viewed as a 
pest because they can damage buildings by chewing 
electrical wiring and stripping bark from trees, destroying woodland.

RSPCA inspector Laura Bryant said a member of the 
public had informed the charity about the 
squirrel’s death and an inspection by a vet had 
revealed that it had taken three minutes to die.

An RSPCA spokesman added: ‘Drowning grey 
squirrels causes unnecessary suffering, as this case demonstrates.

‘If you were to strangle it that would probably 
also cause suffering. And I don’t think many 
people could be certain of killing a squirrel 
outright with a single blow, so that would also cause suffering.

‘Realistically the only humane method would be to 
take the squirrel along to vet, as you would with a pet.’

Tim Bonner, a spokesman for the Countryside 
Alliance, said the RSPCA were using the courts as 
a ‘propaganda vehicle’ to push their policy on animal rights.

‘Killing grey squirrels is a good thing – there 
are far too many of them and they threaten our 
native species and woodland,’ he said.

‘It is absolutely ridiculous that the RSPCA has 
spent thousands of pounds dragging this man 
through the courts when he was clearly unaware of the law.

‘They are using the courts as a propaganda vehicle.’

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