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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Zoo rabbit cruelty man sentenced
Damien French
French had blamed the incident on a teenage friend
A 20-year-old man who took a zoo's rabbit and threw it to an alligator has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

Damien French took the rabbit from a petting section of the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, then dropped it into the alligator pool.

The rabbit was savaged by Albert - a large male alligator.

French from Colwyn Bay, was found guilty of animal cruelty at Llandudno Magistrates' Court last month.

The prosecution at French's trial last month told the court he was accompanied by two other teenagers when he took the rabbit from an area used for children to stroke animals in October 2005.

French took the animal to 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.
This case does demonstrate that the police and courts are prepared to pursue people who abuse animals and bring them to justice
Chris Jackson, Welsh Mountain Zoo

The incident was caught on a mobile phone camera by another visitor who reported it to zoo staff.

French had claimed one of the teenagers with him was responsible for throwing the rabbit into the alligator pen.

But both his friends blamed him for the incident and suggested he was angry that the rabbit had scratched his jacket.

The court heard after leaving the alligator house, the three also threw a lit cigarette to a chimpanzee and French was seen reaching into an arctic fox enclosure.

Chair of Llandudno magistrates, Alan Roberts, said at French's trial that custody was a "likely option", but he was given the suspended sentence at the same court on Wednesday.

Albert the alligator
The rabbit was killed by one of the zoo's alligators, Albert

The sentence also covered two offences of criminal damage, which French admitted.

Mr Roberts told French: "These are serious cases and deserve a custodial sentence.

"You will be committed to prison for a period of six months and that sentence will be suspended for a period of 12 months."

He also made a 12-month supervision order, which included treatment for alcohol abuse, and disqualified French from keeping animals for 10 years.

French's solicitor, Chris Dawson, said his client continued to protest his innocence.

After the hearing Chris Jackson, administrative director of the Welsh Mountain Zoo, said the suspended sentence and the publicity around the case was sufficient punishment.

He said: "We're glad we never have to see him again and we're glad he is going to be kept away from animals for a significant time.

"This case does demonstrate that the police and courts are prepared to pursue people who abuse animals and bring them to justice."


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