Warning: This article contains graphic content which may be upsetting to some.
An Eastbourne and Polegate man laughed as they set packs of dogs on captured wild rabbits.
The pair, who filmed themselves training their dogs to chase and kill the animals, have been sentenced following an investigation by the RSPCA.
Tyler Rhys Earwalker, 19, of Shalfleet Close, Eastbourne, pleaded guilty to six offences and Liam Smith, 20, of Kensington Way, Polegate, pleaded guilty to two at Hastings Magistrates’ Court on Monday (September 30).
RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport launched the investigation in May following a tip off. He said, “When we checked the phones we found lots of videos of Earwaker and Smith releasing captured wild rabbits and setting their dogs on them.
“Some of the videos show the chase taking place across fields while others take place in fenced areas such as a basketball court and a children’s playground meaning the rabbits had no real chance of escape.
“It’s really upsetting to watch the footage and the rabbits must have been extremely distressed before being released. The chase would have been terrifying for them and the manner in which they were killed would have resulted in unnecessary suffering.”
The videos show the pair encouraging the dogs to chase down the rabbits – some of which are clearly in shock – and in one case the rabbits are kicked and thrown onto the ground.
A warrant was executed by police on May 14 at an address in Eastbourne. RSPCA officers joined police and a number of mobile phones were seized.
Five dogs were found at the premises – belonging to Earwaker’s family – and the RSPCA said all appeared in good condition. A number of hutches and cages were located in the garden, some with ferrets inside.
Inspector Lamport said, “We found long hunting nets, often used for catching animals, and a number of animal carriers in the shed and Earwaker told me he used the large trap for rabbits, using carrots as bait.
“Some of his coats were bloodstained and a number of phones and an iPad were seized.”
Four dogs – two lurchers and two terriers – were seized by police and Earwaker was interviewed.
Inspector Lamport later received a call from Smith’s father claiming one of the dogs seized belonged to him.
He said, “Mr Smith told me he’d bought the terrier for his son, We discovered that his son, Liam Smith, had been going out with Earwaker rabbiting and ferreting.
“They were catching rabbits and ‘dropping’ them in front of their dogs for the dogs to chase in order to train the dogs they thought the latter was legal.”
Earwaker was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from keeping rabbits for five years and ordered to pay £300 costs and £85 victim surcharge.
Smith was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from keeping rabbits for five years and ordered to pay £300 costs and £85 victim surcharge.
The court determined the four dogs should be returned to their owners.