AN Alresford man has been given a 12-week suspended prison sentence and a £445 fine after being found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

According to the RSPCA, Scott Bicknell, 41, of Kiln Lane, Alresford, appeared at Southampton Magistrates’ Court on August 2 for sentencing, having previously pleaded guilty to an animal welfare offence.

The court heard that between April 18 and August 22 last year in Alresford, Bicknell had caused unnecessary suffering to a rabbit by encouraging his dogs to chase and attack a rabbit, contrary to Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Commenting on the case, RSPCA chief inspector Will Mitchell said that a mobile phone had been seized as part of a separate police operation and this had led to evidence of animal welfare concerns being uncovered, prompting warrants at two addresses in Hampshire, one of them in Alresford.

Mr Mitchell said: “On the phone - which belonged to another man who isn’t part of our investigations - we found videos and Whatsapp messages.

“One of these videos showed Mr Bicknell in his garden setting his dogs on a wild rabbit and encouraging them to kill it. It’s really horrific footage to watch.”

Bicknell was handed a 12-week prison term, suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £300 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge. He was disqualified from keeping animals for two years.