Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17175
Classification: Choking / Strangulation / Suffocation
Animal: rodent/small mammal (pet), rabbit (pet)
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Thursday, Dec 30, 2010

Disposition: Open

Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!

A FAMILY has been left devastated and angry by a "sick" attack on their pet rabbit and guinea pigs which were found dead outside their smashed up hutch days after Christmas.

Diane Smith, her partner Wayne Smell and their four children left pet rabbit Thumper and guinea pigs Bubbles and Biscuit for their annual three-day family gathering at Butlins holiday park in Minehead on December 27 for a short break.

When the family returned to their home in Newlands, Dawlish, Ms Smith discovered the bodies of the eight-month-old pets lying head to toe in a circle and their double hutch and run smashed.

An investigation has now been launched by both police and the RSPCA who believe the animals may have been strangled, suffocated or could have died from shock.

Ms Smith said she felt "sick" and "disgusted" when she made the gruesome discovery after returning from the family break.

The 30-year-old full time mum said: "As soon as we got back home I went straight out into the garden to take the animals more carrots and discovered the bodies displayed on the ground lying in a circle. I couldn't believe it. I started crying and screaming.

"The three older children saw the pets. Everyone was really upset.

"I don't understand what sort of person would want to torture or kill a defenceless animal.

"I keep thinking it is just a horrid dream which I will wake up from."

RSPCA Inspector Marija Zwager said the pets' two-tier double hutch was smashed in, probably with a lump hammer which Ms Smith had left at the bottom of her garden but which somebody had moved and left by the hutch.

Mrs Zwager said: "We do not know how these animals died but there was no blood or obvious marks or injuries and the animals had been healthy and well fed, so the most obvious explanation would be strangulation or suffocation.

"Some animals can also die as a result of severe shock, which leads to cardiac arrest, so it is possible that if they were inside the hutch when it was smashed up around them they could literally have died of fright."

Door-to-door inquiries by animal cruelty inspectors and police officers have revealed three boys aged about 14 or 15 were seen in Miss Smith's garden shortly after the family left, but it is not known if they are linked with this incident.

Ms Smith, who has owned all three animals from babies, said she buried them so her younger daughter was spared the sight of them and immediately alerted the police and RSPCA. It is understood the animals have now been dug up by the RSPCA while an investigation into the deaths continues.

She added: "As horrid as it was, I am grateful that I made the gruesome discovery and not my eldest daughter who was keen to go out and see them.

"What these people have done made my lovely animals suffer but will also cause my children distress and I still do not know how I am going to explain this to my youngest who is four. I don't lie to my children but I'm going to have to tell my younger daughter that they died because of the cold. It's just too horrific and upsetting.

"The garden is really exposed and I can't believe none of the 15 houses around didn't see anything. Nothing else was taken or damaged. It just doesn't make sense.

"I hope somebody out there knows who did this and will come forward with information so the culprits can be held responsible for their sick actions." Ms Smith said her partner Wayne, a phone accessories stall holder on Newton Abbot market, had spoken with fellow sellers and all had been horrified.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the RSPCA cruelty and information line on 0300 1234 999.

If you have information on this case, please contact:
RSPCA cruelty and information line
0300 1234 999


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