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Suspended jail term after ‘shocking’ rabbit neglect

A 43-YEAR-OLD man from Narberth appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Feb 13) after he neglected 22 domestic rabbits.

Andrew Michael Williams, of High Street, pleaded guilty to the charge.

Prosecutor, John Tarrant, told the court: “On October 8, 2016, an inspector attended High Street in Narberth. They saw at the back of the property there was a terraced garden with huches and a yellow garden bucket. In the lower section of the garden there were three blocks of hutches with live and dead rabbits.

“There was some water but no food, and the inspector contacted the police.”

Mr Tarrant continued: “The inspectors and veterinarians arrived and gained entry with police assistance. Williams had been drinking heavily, and on entering, the property was unkempt and there was rabbit faeces on the floor. They called out but had no reply, and found Williams on the bed in a drunken state.

“There were no sheets and vomit was present, as well as 20-30 vodka botles and decaying food.”

Mr Tarrant explained that there were rabbits loose in the hallway, and as the inspectors approached they ran into the garden, where they found both live and dead rabbits.

He explained: “There was one dead rabbit on the floor and live and dead rabbits in the hutches. The grass had all been eaten.

“There was also a yellow garden bucket with putrified remains of several rabbits.”

In total, there were eight dead rabbits and 14 others.

Mr Tarrant said: “In a group of rabbits in cage 5, there was evidence of cannibalism: only one of the rabbits had its ears intact. None of the rabbits in hutches had access to food or water.”

When Williams was interviewed, he said he was not going to comment a great deal. However, when asked about the yellow bucket, he said ‘stop reminding me of that’ and said there were ‘all sorts of people coming in and ou of my garden.’

Williams signed over all the rabbits except one called Loki.

Defence solicitor, Michael Kelleher said: “The facts are shocking, and Williams is shocked as well. You might think he dislikes rabbits, but this is not the case. He has kept rabbits since 2005. He’s got a fridge just for them, and they are part and parcel of his life.”

Mr Kelleher explained that Loki is a house rabbit, and is a descendant of a previous rabbit he had.

He continued: “Williams’ mental health hasn’t been good and he has suffered with alcoholism. He managed to keep looking after the rabbits, and would buy all of his clothes from charity shops so that food was available for the rabbits.

“He suffered with deep depression and was hospitalised immediately after he was found in the state he was in.”

Mr Kelleher told the bench that Williams believed the animals were fed, but it was the alcohol that has fooled his mind. He said: “The rabbits were his family. When he was arrested, he said ‘I’ve let me best friends down. I’ve left my family down’, and was referring to the rabbits.

“He refused to sign over Loki and is desperate to have him back. He believes his mental health will be affected if Loki is not returned.”

Probation officer, Julie Norman explained that Williams had told her he had been keeping rabbits for over 10 years, but had recently been suffering with mental health.

She said: “His father had gone on holiday and he relapsed when he was on his own.

“He was drinking heavily over a two week period and didn’t know what was going on. He is very remorseful, but thought they were being fed. Clearly they weren’t.

“He is particularly stressed abou Loki. He doesn’t go out much because of anxiety – to be able to come here today, he was prescribed diazepam from his doctor just to get on a bus.”

Magistrates told the court that they had taken a considerable amount of time with their sentencing, and are bound by their guidelines.

Williams was banned from keeping animals for five years, and sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. No requirements were imposed. He must also pay £300 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

WARNING: Graphic images below.