Rabbit rescue lands Wotton-under-Edge teens in trouble
Updated 2:17pm Monday 2nd June 2014 in News By Daniel Chipperfield, senior reporter covering Dursley, Cam, Wotton-under-Edge, Sharpness, Slimbridge, Berkeley, Coaley, Uley, North Nibley, Stinchcombe and Cambridge
TEENAGERS from Wotton-under-Edge found themselves in trouble with the police when they went to the rescue of trapped rabbits in the grounds of their school.
The three youngsters had gone to Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School to skate during the Easter holidays and were shocked to find two rabbits trapped in cages.
The cages were out in the sun and the rabbits had no water.
Marcus Jotcham, 14, said he and two friends initially dragged the cages to the shade but then decided to set the animals free and crush the traps so they could not be used again.
The school reported the damage to the police and two of the boys have since been cautioned but Marcus’ mother Tracey Jotcham, 52, is unhappy with the school’s reaction and for adopting the trapping practice in the first place.
“The boys were so disgusted that they had been left there they decided to crush the cages and needless to say the police have been brought in,” she told the Gazette.
“What a waste of police money. They were the school’s cages so could have been dealt with in-house.”
The mother-of-three from The Chipping in Wotton added the rabbits should not have been caged.
“We teach our kids to be kind to animals and then the school does this. It’s disgusting,” she said.
“How could they have been so cruel?”
Headteacher Andrew Harris said rabbits had been making holes in the school’s hockey and rugby pitches, causing a danger to students, and were destroying the horticultural students’ plants. One pitch had recently been refurbished at a cost of more than £100,000.
He said the traps were checked every few hours.
“I am really sorry if we have distressed anyone in our attempts to control the population but if we do not the school can’t conduct its business and as difficult as it may be, we can’t just allow the population to expand out of control,” Mr Harris said.
He added that there was very clear guidance on trapping rabbits and a method to deal with them humanely, recommended by Natural England.
“The last thing we want is to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal,” he stressed.
Mr Harris went on to say that because the incident had taken place outside school term and involved damage to property, the school had referred the matter to police but no action was being taken against the students at the school.
Landowners have a legal obligation to keep rabbit populations on their land under control, with Natural England recommending fences or humane trapping.
The body recommends that captured rabbits should be killed by two sharp blows to the back of the head using a heavy stick, followed by asphyxiation to ensure the animal is dead.
A Gloucestershire police spokesman said the cages had been valued at around £150.
“Three teenagers have been spoken to in relation to the criminal damage,” he said.
“It is hoped two will be dealt with by way of restorative justice while action to be taken against the third teenager is still pending.”
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