I have just read on Twitter of a hedgehog being found that had been kicked to death. This unfortunately is all to common, and I relate two cases from my Tayside Police days recounted in my third book A Lone Furrow.
I was pleased to have been consulted for advice in June 2007 by officers who were dealing with a report of a hedgehog having been savagely kicked to death in the Highland Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. The officers had been in their parked police car in the very early hours of a Saturday morning when they saw two men kicking what they initially thought was a ball back and forth across the street. Suddenly realising the ‘ball’ was a hedgehog, the police drove along to the men, both joiners from the west of Scotland and visiting Aberfeldy. The hedgehog was clearly dead but of course the question was, ‘had it been alive at any stage while it was being kicked?’
I got the hedgehog from the officers and arranged to have a post mortem examination carried out to establish whether or not it had been dead when it was being kicked. Though a bizarre pastime, it would not have been an offence to have played football with an already dead hedgehog. However the unfortunate hedgehog was indeed alive while it was the unwilling participant in a midnight football game. There was no visible sign of injury externally, but there was severe bruising under the skin covering the ribcage on both sides of its chest. In addition, several of the ribs were broken at either side of its body and when the chest cavity was opened up these rib fractures were found to be linked to severe haemorrhaging around the lungs. We saw a number of large blood clots in the chest cavity and all in all, the injuries were considered by the veterinary pathologist as traumatic chest injury, causing death, and being consistent with being kicked.
The men pleaded guilty to the offence. One was fined £360 and the other £400. I saw these as significant fines and proportionate to the illegal actions of men aged 37 and 41 who should have known better.
In the month following the Aberfeldy incident, two police officers, one of them a Divisional wildlife crime officer, PC Shaun Lough, were patrolling a Perth housing estate late at night when they saw a youth walking towards them drinking from a bottle of lager. This was enough to focus their attention on the 19 year-old but what followed shocked the officers. As the man got closer, the officers saw a hedgehog leave a garden and walk across the road near to the man. As he came up to it he kicked the poor beast with such force that he propelled it several metres along the road.
The officers stopped the man and saw that one of his trainers still had several of the hedgehogs’ spines embedded in it. Naturally this was taken as evidence in the case. The officers saw that the hedgehog
was lying motionless at the kerb-side within a small pool of what appeared to be urine. Suspecting that the animal was unwell, the officers asked the Force Control Centre to see if a vet was available to have a look at the animal if the police took it to the surgery, but none could be contacted. While the officers’ attention was diverted in dealing with the man, his unfortunate victim appeared to have recovered and the officers saw the tail-end of it disappearing into the garden from which it had come.
In this case the evidence was of a different nature, with the two police officers having seen the animal alive before it was kicked. The man was charged, at which point it was discovered that he had been celebrating his birthday. He explained that he didn’t think it was a hedgehog he kicked; just leaves and grass. Tumbleweed blowing down a Perth street on a windless night is stretching the imagination. In addition to a fixed penalty notice for drinking his bottle of lager in a public street, the kick at the hedgehog cost the man £200.
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