#TheList Tyler Rhys Earwaker, born c. 2000, of Shalfleet Close, Eastbourne BN23 8DU & Liam Smith, c. 1999, of Kensington Way, Polegate BN26 6FH – laughed as they set packs of dogs on captured wild rabbits
Earwaker pleaded guilty to six offences and Smith pleaded guilty to two. The pair were prosecuted by the RSPCA following an investigation which included examination of horrific mobile phone footage.
RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport launched the investigation in May 2019 following a tip-off. She said, “When we checked [their] phones we found lots of videos of Earwaker and Smith releasing captured wild rabbits and setting their dogs on them.
“Some of the videos show the chase taking place across fields while others take place in fenced areas such as a basketball court and a children’s playground meaning the rabbits had no real chance of escape.
“It’s really upsetting to watch the footage and the rabbits must have been extremely distressed before being released. The chase would have been terrifying for them and the manner in which they were killed would have resulted in unnecessary suffering.”
The videos show the pair encouraging the dogs to chase down the rabbits – some of which are clearly in shock – and in one case the rabbits are kicked and thrown onto the ground.
A warrant was executed by police on May 14 at an address in Eastbourne. RSPCA officers joined police and a number of mobile phones were seized.
Five dogs were found at the premises – belonging to Earwaker’s family – and the RSPCA said all appeared in good condition. A number of hutches and cages were located in the garden, some with ferrets inside.
Inspector Lamport said, “We found long hunting nets, often used for catching animals, and a number of animal carriers in the shed and Earwaker told me he used the large trap for rabbits, using carrots as bait.
“Some of his coats were bloodstained and a number of phones and an iPad were seized.”
Four dogs – two lurchers and two terriers – were seized by police and Earwaker was interviewed.
Inspector Lamport later received a call from Smith’s father claiming one of the dogs seized belonged to him.
She said, “Mr Smith told me he’d bought the terrier for his son, We discovered that his son, Liam Smith, had been going out with Earwaker rabbiting and ferreting.
“They were catching rabbits and ‘dropping’ them in front of their dogs for the dogs to chase in order to train the dogs they thought the latter was legal.”
The court determined the four dogs should be returned to their owners.
Earwaker – 12-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from keeping rabbits for five years and ordered to pay £300 costs and £85 victim surcharge.
Smith – 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was disqualified from keeping rabbits for five years and ordered to pay £300 costs and £85 victim surcharge.