Thursday, March 16, 2006

Colwyn Bay - Colwyn Bay man threw live pet rabbit to alligator at Colwyn Bay Zoo

Zoo visitor's cruelty to rabbit
Damien French
The defendant has blamed a friend for the rabbit's death
A man who took a rabbit from a compound in a zoo and threw it into an alligator pool where it was killed has been warned he is facing jail.Damien French, 20, from Colwyn Bay, was found guilty of cruelty to the rabbit at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in the town in north Wales last October.
Llandudno Magistrates Court heard French took the rabbit from an area used for children to stroke animals.
The teenager had claimed a friend with him at the time was responsible.
The prosecution said French, accompanied by two other teenagers, took the rabbit from the petting area into a compound containing two alligators, where he dangled it from a balcony.
He dropped the rabbit and a male alligator named Albert took it in its jaws and killed it but did not eat it.
The court heard a young girl entered the alligator house and asked the three: "Is that a rabbit?"
The three are alleged to have fallen into fits of laughter as one answered: "It was - it was running around 10 minutes ago."
Rabbit fed to alligator at zoo
French is said to have laughed hysterically at the scene
One of the boys with French that day, now aged 16, told the court: "We were in the alligator house and Damien said, 'He looks hungry'.
"He went into the other place, climbed on to a ledge and leaned over and he grabbed one of the rabbits by its ears.
"He said he was going to throw it to the alligators. I said 'Don't throw it in', but he did."
French said in court he felt guilty about the rabbit's death because he had been present at the time but was not responsible for it dying.
He blamed his 14-year-old friend, who cannot be named, saying the other boy had taken the rabbit from its pen and thrown it to the alligators.
He said: "We were all laughing about it. I was laughing just because of the shock of it happening.
 This is a salutary lesson to people who indulge in mindless attacks on defenceless animals 
Chris Jackson, Welsh Mountain Zoo
"I found it funny at the time but I feel pretty bad about it now. It's not a nice thing to have happened.
"I felt as guilty as the others just for being there, but I didn't touch the rabbit."
However both his friends blamed him for the incident and suggested he was angry the rabbit had scratched his new jacket.
The court heard after leaving the alligator house, the boys also threw a lit cigarette to a chimpanzee, and French was seen reaching into an arctic fox enclosure.
French had previously admitted smashing two shop windows in Colwyn Bay in the early hours of the day after the rabbit killing.
Defence solicitor Chris Dawson had argued the court could not be sure who had thrown the rabbit.
Chair of magistrates Alan Roberts said: "Custody seems a very likely option."
French will be sentenced on 5 April.
Welsh Mountain Zoo administrative director Chris Jackson said after the trial he was pleased with the verdict.
"This is a salutary lesson to people who indulge in mindless attacks on defenceless animals," he added. 

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