A man has been sent to prison and banned from keeping animals for 10 years after he was caught on CCTV intentionally throwing two rabbits into a grass verge - then driving off and leaving the hutch behind.

Gavin Huw Towells, 38 of Coed Cae, Cwmbach, Aberdare, appeared at Merthyr Magistrates’ Court today and pleaded guilty to three offences.

They were that he caused unnecessary suffering to a tricolour female dutch rabbit and a brown female English lop eared rabbit by lifting them by their ears and throwing them, that he abandoned them, and also that he failed to provide them with a suitable living environment by confining them in an inadequate cage.

Magistrates’ handed Towells an eight-week prison sentence for the animal welfare offences and was banned from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay a £115 surcharge and £400 costs.

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He was also handed a six-week imprisonment for breaching a suspended sentence for separate offences not related to this case. The prison sentences will not run concurrently.

Towells was also prosecuted by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council for fly-tipping - as he left the rabbit hutch at the location. He was fined £500 for this offence.

The court heard that Towells was caught on privately-owned CCTV getting out of his car in a layby on Abercynon Road, Abercynon, and getting out a small rabbit hutch from his boot which he placed on the ground next to heavy undergrowth.

He then opens up the hutch and picks up a pet rabbit by the ear and hurls it into the undergrowth. He then picks up a second pet rabbit by an ear and hurls it in the same manner. He then drives off leaving the rabbit hutch behind.

A witness who saw what had happened managed to confine the rabbits and they were taken to the RSPCA Merthyr Tydfil Veterinary Clinic where they were health checked and given pain relief for the redness to their ear which is thought to have been caused by Towells when he threw them.

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In interview with the RSPCA Towells said he was taught by a pet store how to handle the rabbits in such a way so they didn’t kick him.

RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said: “The way in which Towells treated these poor rabbits is absolutely disgusting. There is just no need for it. The rabbits actually somersaulted many times before landing.

“There are plenty of charities out there who are willing to take in unwanted pets. Not only did he cause the rabbits unnecessary suffering by the way in which he threw them, he also would have caused them suffering by abandoning them.

“These are domestic rabbits who do not have the same instincts as a wild rabbits and would have probably become victim to a predator in a short amount of time. Luckily a very clued-up witness was able to save them from such a tragedy.”

The rabbits have now been successfully rehomed together.

Scientific officer for RSPCA’s Companion Animals department, Dr Jane Tyson, added: “Rabbits should never be picked up by their ears. How they were handled in this case would have been very stressful for them and highly likely to cause injury.

“Rabbits also have very fragile spines which can easily fracture from incorrect handling. When they are held, the handling should be gentle but firm and their body weight should be fully supported with one hand always supporting their back and hindquarters. If they feel insecure and struggle when being held they can sustain serious injuries such as fractures.”

Commenting on the prosecution for fly-tipping, Nigel Wheeler, RCT Council’s Director of Highways and Streetcare Services, said: “This case today should act as a stark warning to anyone fly-tipping in RCT - we will investigate each case and we do carry out surveillance in key hot spot areas. We will catch offenders and hold them to account where necessary for this unacceptable behaviour.

“In this instance there were serious concerns raised whilst viewing the CCTV footage, which led to a joint investigation between ourselves and the RSPCA and ultimately a successful prosecution.”