WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGE: Derbyshire man starved pet rabbit to death

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A former Derbyshire man who starved his rabbit to death has been disqualified from keeping animals for five years.

Gary McPhail, 27, of Cotlandswick, in London Colney, St Albans, appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday 17 August), where he pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the grey rabbit named Bugsy.

The court heard that Bugsy died after not being fed any food for a week at McPhail’s previous home in Peveril Road, in Tibshelf, Alfreton.

RSPCA inspector Rachel Leafe, who investigated, said: “McPhail was well aware that he wasn’t feeding the rabbit and he knew that as a result, the rabbit was suffering a great deal. He said that he could tell the rabbit wasn’t well as he wasn’t moving much.

“When I interviewed McPhail about this, he said he did not have any money to feed the rabbit - yet he did not make any attempt to contact any organisations for help. Instead he left Bugsy to starve to death.

“He actually had a lawn of grass which would have provided some free food for the rabbit. So there was food there for him, but he did not provide it for Bugsy.

“Rabbits have sensitive stomachs and going without food for even just 12 hours can cause them to suffer. The fact that Bugsy went without food for a whole week is unbearable.

“It’s unbelievably cruel to simply leave an animal to slowly die in a cage without the care they need and deserve to survive.”

As well as the five-year disqualification order, McPhail was given an eight-week curfew and was ordered to pay £300 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

Inspector Leafe encouraged anyone thinking of getting pet rabbits to carefully research what is needed to ensure they are cared for correctly before making the commitment.

She added: “Many people do not realise how complex rabbits can be to care for, and we see many come into our centres after owners have not provided them with what they need to be kept happy and healthy.

“Owning and caring for rabbits can be very rewarding, but it’s a big responsibility and a long-term commitment in terms of care and cost.

“We urge anyone thinking of taking on rabbits that they do thorough research about how they need to look after them first and ensure they are able to meet all their welfare needs throughout their lives.”