An IT worker who killed a fox cub he accidentally caught with a rat trap in his garden has been found guilty of animal cruelty offences. 

Richard Rosen, 65, said that having caught the cub he decided to try to “humanely euthanise” it as he had no safe way of releasing it. 

But a judge decided that Rosen caused the fox unnecessary suffering as he placed it in a wheelie bin and then in a rubble sack along with a bowl of dichloromethane (DCM) - a banned poison. 

Rosen laid the trap at the end of his garden in Twyford Avenue, Muswell Hill, on the evening of May 18, 2021, to catch a rat that his lodger Annabel Eager had seen. 

The following morning a three-month old fox cub weighing 2kgs was found in the trap. 

Summarising evidence heard during a trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Denis Brennan said: “As [Rosen] approached it, it was scrabbling, digging at the concrete, with eyes frantic, snarling, with bared teeth. He did not know what to do but decided against release as he feared it might bite him.” 

Rosen collected a bottle of an old poison from the 1980s which he believed was chloroform. However, the bottle was clearly labelled DCM - a now banned substance which was used in paint stripper products until 2010.   

As he collected the poison from her bathroom, Ms Eager said her landlord sounded proud of himself that he had caught the fox.   

Describing the fox, Ms Eager said: “Her fur was sticking out of the bars a little bit. She was cramped, stressed, she looked like she had been there a long time.   

“She was having a dig into the corners trying to find a way of getting out of but it was locked, she couldn’t get out.” 

Defending Rosen, Anthony James said: “The defendant took some steps before making the decision to euthanise the fox. He called the vets, who were unable to assist him. 

“He then called the RSPCA and remained on the phone for approximately 10 minutes but was unable to get through to anyone. He was of the view that the fox needed to be dealt with quickly.” 

Rosen then placed the caged fox in a wheelie bin with a bowl of DCM. 

When after around 40 minutes it was still alive, Rosen also covered the caged fox with a thick rubble bag. 

Half an hour later Rosen checked again and the fox was dead. 

Ham & High: Rosen pictured holding the cage with the dead fox cub insideRosen pictured holding the cage with the dead fox cub inside (Image: Newsquest)After Ms Eager phoned the RSPCA, one of the charity’s officers Jack Taylor arrived at the property. 

“I asked Mr Rosen why he killed the fox. He told me he caught a fox accidentally and proceeded to kill it using chloroform,” Mr Taylor said.

“I asked why he didn’t release the fox. He told me because foxes are vermin and that would be unthinkable.”  

When he was asked to surrender the dead fox, Mr Taylor said: “Mr Rosen shook the fox out of the cage as if he was trying to get ketchup out of a bottle.”  

Rosen told the court he would not have killed it if he had been given advice by the RSPCA but he was unable to get help.  

When asked why he described foxes as vermin, he said: “I was upset, foxes had been s***ing on my driveway, I was annoyed.” 

Ham & High: Rosen pictured outside Highbury Corner Magistrates' CourtRosen pictured outside Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court (Image: Newsquest/Bolton)Two experts in the world animal forensics were called to give evidence about whether to animal suffered before its death, and they disagreed. 

Dr Sean Taylor, called by prosecutor Hazel Stevens, said that inside the wheelie bin the poison would evaporate and cause the fox to suffer. 

Dr Taylor said the fox’s eyes, nose and airways would all be stinging because of the irritant. 

“It certainly would cause a fox distress when that substance is inhaled, which of course would have been unavoidable for the fox,” he said.   

However, Dr David Bailey, who was called by defence counsel Mr James, said the fox appeared to have died peacefully.  

Dr Bailey said: “There was no external trauma. Animals that are distressed in these situations often defecate themselves or urinate themselves. There was no sign of this.”  

Dr Bailey suggested the fox may have died due to a build-up of carbon dioxide rather than due to a lack of oxygen.  

“You don’t suffer, smell or detect a build-up of CO2,” he said. “The fox would have experienced, in my opinion, a very similar process to how they slaughter pigs.”  

However, in his judgement District Judge Brennan said: “There is ample evidence here, on the facts, that the fox cub was caused unnecessary suffering by the combination of inhalation of DCM in the confined space of the closed wheelie bin and suffocation within the bag within the bin. 

“It was clearly in that bin for at least 40 mins before being wrapped up in the builder’s bag. It did not die instantaneously from inhalation of DCM, on the evidence here. This is not a case of industrial amounts of carbon dioxide being applied very quickly. 

“Therefore the only possible explanation, taking the acknowledged stress the animal was under before it was put inside the bin, is that for an unknown but significant period before unconsciousness occurred, it would have suffered due to the effects of DCM and the lack of oxygen.” 

On Thursday (September 22, 2023) Rosen was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and administering a poisonous substance to a protected animal. 

He was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £12,000 in costs to the RSPCA.