A man has been sentenced for animal welfare offences after poisoning a fox cub he caught in a trap by filling a bowl with a harmful chemical, before placing the cub in a bag in a wheelie bin in his Ealing garden, until she sadly died.
Richard Rosen, 65, of Twyford Avenue, Acton, was sentenced following a trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ on 21 September, for causing unnecessary suffering to a juvenile fox.
The RSPCA investigated the improper killing of the fox following a call to their emergency line in May 2021. Inspector Jack Taylor attended the property alongside animal rescue officer (ARO) Nicola Thomas, who found the fox’s body inside a small metal trap. The empty bottle of the chemical – a poisonous substance sometimes found in paint stripper – and the small trap were later seized by police.
The investigation revealed that the three-month-old fox cub had been caught in the trap by Rosen who claims he had been trying to catch a rat. Previously, a lodger living at the property had seen a mother fox and her cubs playing in the garden so when she saw Rosen had caught a fox and planned to euthanase the animal, she contacted the RSPCA.
Rosen placed a bowl of Dichloromethane, which he claimed he thought was chloroform, inside the trap and placed the trap with the fox locked inside into his wheelie bin. He checked on the fox cub after 30 minutes and found the fox was still alive, so he placed the trap inside a sealed bag and back into the wheelie bin. When he checked again 30 minutes later, the fox was dead.
Inspector Jack Taylor, who investigated, said: “This was a cruel way for this poor animal to die and could have been completely avoided had the young fox simply been released from the trap. Rosen was advised not to euthanase the fox by a vet when he made an initial call to them to say he had caught a fox in his trap, but still he decided to poison the fox and then slowly let the cub die over a period of an hour or more.”
The court heard how the vet report stated that the “fox pup would likely have been distressed by being closed in the bin as well as the irritant properties of the chemical to the lining of her throat and airways.”
It added: “If still conscious when the trap was transferred to the smaller bag this may have caused further fear and distress, and the possibility that she died of suffocation rather than due to the chemical. I do not think the actions taken were reasonable. I think release would have been the reasonable response to a fox cub accidentally caught in a trap. Risk of a bite could have been mitigated by wearing gloves or by tipping the trap so the cub was at the bottom and opening from the top.”
Exposure to the chemical used is similar to carbon monoxide poisoning and could involve depression of the central nervous system resulting in lethargy and eye and respiratory tract irritation. High concentrations can cause swelling of the lungs, irregular heartbeat, convulsions, coma and death.
The court also heard further evidence from a vet which concluded that “in my opinion, the fox was caused to suffer as a consequence of being held within a squirrel trap for a period of at least 60 minutes. Suffering will have been experienced by this animal via mechanisms of fear and distress for a period of at least 30 minutes.”
The vet added: “The animal was deliberately placed within an environment containing this chemical agent which would have caused this animal to suffer via mechanisms of eye and respiratory irritation for a period of several minutes, probably longer.
“In my opinion, the fox would have died as a consequence of suffocation either as a direct effect of being placed within a seal bag impermeable to air, or as an indirect effect of the chemical agent also placed within that sealed environment. Suffering will have been caused via mechanisms of fear, respiratory distress and restriction of normal breathing for a period of several minutes, possibly longer.”
In sentencing remarks, the Judge Denis Brennan said: “There is ample evidence here, on the facts, that the fox cub was caused unnecessary suffering by the combination of inhalation of DCM (Dichloromethane) in the confined space of the closed wheelie bin and suffocation within the bag within the bin. It was clearly in that bin for at least 40 minutes before being wrapped up in the builder’s bag. It did not die instantaneously … and would have suffered due to the effects of the chemical and the lack of oxygen.”
In mitigation, the court heard that Rosen was of good character and had lost his job due to being involved in these criminal proceedings.
Rosen was sentenced to a conditional discharge of 12 months, ordered to pay costs of £12,000, a further £3,879 in central funds and a £22 victim surcharge to be paid within 12 months.