A pensioner who shot a squirrel five times has been spared a ban on owning pets so he can keep his beloved budgie. William Worthington went shopping after he trapped and blasted the grey squirrel with an air gun, leaving it alive but in ‘pain and fear’. Stockport magistrates heard that when the OAP returned, he shot it again and went to visit his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, in a care home. The former civil servant returned to find the police and RSPCA at his house after a neighbour spotted the blood-covered rodent.
The 74-year-old was fined £140 and banned from keeping squirrels with £1,281 costs, having admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. But magistrates decided against a blanket ban on keeping animals, which would have seen Worthington forced to hand over his pet budgie Peter. He has owned Peter for four years. He told the court: “I live on my own the only comfort or solace I have is a budgie, I have taught him to speak and he is a lovely little bird. He is the only noise I have when I shut that front door – the silence is terrible.”
While it is not illegal to shoot a squirrel, under government guidelines it must be killed humanely. Worthington, of Bredbury, Stockport, said that he thought the squirrel had died immediately, adding: “It may have been in shock it wasn’t moving when I shot it. Each time I shot the squirrel it was immobile and I was convinced. The inspector stopped me from doing it otherwise I would have finished it off. I am very sorry it will never happen again.” The RSPCA took the squirrel to a vet and it later died. Worthington admitted setting the trap for the ‘nuisance’ squirrels, which he claimed had caused havoc in his garden.
Defending, Russell Wild said: “A blanket ban would prevent him from keeping his budgie at home. As ridiculous as it sounds you could disqualify him from keeping squirrels, that would prevent him from trapping them.” Speaking after the hearing RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald said: “It is an unusual case, I have been doing this for 10 years and this is the first situation like it. I think the punishment is fair and gets the message out that if you are going to trap and kill a squirrel, or any animal, it must be done humanely. It was still moving, still clearly alive, the trap was covered in blood.”