A couple who took in a squirrel
and kept him as a pet, have been warned they face prosecution unless they allow him to be put down.
Patricia Faulkner and Dave Armitage built a run in their Colchester
back garden for the squirrel they have named Squeaky.
Although he cannot climb trees, he is able to run about. He is only able to climb enclosed containers.
Squeaky has been with them for about seven years, but they are moving from Hazelton Road to a smaller home in Norfolk and had to call in the RSPCA
as they will not have room for him.
The animal charity told the pair they had broken the law by keeping a wild animal without a licence
and said Squeaky would have to be put down.
If they defy officials, they could face prosecution
Ms Faulkner, 50, who works as a medic on film sets, said: “I can’t believe they would want to get rid of him.
“It’s like they are the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, except squirrels.
“He can’t climb, but he’s fat and healthy and he’s not like a pet. I’ve tried to keep him wild and he would take your finger off if you went near him.
“I wish I hadn’t got the RSPCA
involved now, because there is just no good reason to put him down.”
Mr Armitage built Squeaky’s garden run when Ms Faulkner moved in with him a few years ago, bringing the squirrel along with her from her old house in Wivenhoe.
He said: “We’ve got him in a cage temporarily because we had to clear out the garden before we move, but he had loads of room to run about in the run.
“Squirrels normally only live for five years in the wild and ours is about nine-years-old.”
Ms Faulkner said she first started to feed Squeaky when she spotted him in her garden and realised he was not well and was unable to climb.
She said he mostly sleeps in his run by day and gets up at night to run around.
“We call him Squeaky because if you go out there when he’s up and about, he will squeak at you,” she said.
spokeswoman Katy Geary confirmed the couple had unwittingly broken the law by keeping a grey squirrel, as a licence was required under restrictions laid down by Natural England.
She said it would also be illegal to release Squeaky, in the knowledge that he was not fit to survive in the wild.
That means the RSPCA’s only option, other than to put him down, is to find a sanctuary which does have a licence to keep squirrels.
The restrictions are tougher than for many other species as moving grey squirrels into certain areas of the country could put native red squirrels under threat.
Ms Geary said: “It is a bit of a legal minefield.
“It is one of these cases where people are doing what they think is best to care for an animal, but technically they are breaking the law.”
Originally introduced from America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the grey squirrel has spread widely and today is a well-known feature of British parks, gardens and woodland.
Grey squirrels – rather like rabbits, foxes and one or two other “pest” species
– split public opinion and while many people enjoy seeing and feeding them, others view them as nothing more than tree rats. Entertaining though their antics undoubtedly are, they remain a serious forestry pest, causing considerable damage each year, especially to young trees.
The householder too may find that they can make quite a nuisance of themselves. Agile, bold and inquisitive creatures, they can soon learn how to raid a bird table and may then add insult to injury by digging holes in the lawn to hide the food they have stolen.
More seriously, they can find their way into roof spaces – either by climbing the walls or leaping across from a nearby tree – where they can be very destructive, tearing up insulation to use as nest material and chewing the timbers. They have also been known to strip the insulation off electric cables – a major potential fire risk.
Ray Stevens sings the Mississippi Squirrel Revival.