A Taunton teenager who tortured a pet rabbit with knives and skewers before setting it on fire and dumping it on a roadside has been spared jail.

The two youths, one from Taunton and the other from Bruton, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stuffed the pet inside a backpack and threw it twice at the ground in a "hammer throw".

They also chased the defenceless animal round the garden with a baseball bat while equipped with a large kitchen knife, a skewer and firelighters.

Both of its ears and one of its lower legs had been cut off when the corpse was found, a court heard.

The pair were rumbled when one of their mums found an image of the dead rabbit on his phone - and the other uploaded a picture of it on fire to Snapchat.

The teenagers, who were 16 at the time of the offence, both blamed each other for instigating the prolonged killing.

Mathew Knight, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said one of the defendants was seen chasing the rabbit round a garden while holding a baseball bat and shouting that he was going to kill it.

Mr Knight said: "On July 19 the owner noticed the rabbit was missing from its hutch, and the two defendants later admitted they had killed it.

“The mother of one of the boys confronted them about it and then found a photo on her son’s phone of the dead rabbit.

“The burnt rabbit carcass was missing both ears and one leg - and when it was found together with a knife and a skewer the matter was reported to the RSPCA.

“Both boys said it was the other’s idea to kill the rabbit and said they had put the pet into a rucksack and took it to a grassy area then threw the bag twice like a hammer throw.

“One of them then kicked the rabbit once to the head to put it out of its misery.”

Yeovil Express:

Yeovil Express:

The remains of the rabbit. 

Mr Knight said that one of the boys said he wanted to video the other one kicking the rabbit - but couldn’t get his phone on in time and just took a photo.

Mr Knight added: “He then changed his Snapchat profile picture to that of a little burning rabbit icon but said the rabbit was burnt after death and they did not cut off its ears or legs.

“The other boy admitted they had both thrown the animal and accepted it was like a hammer throw, and it then fell out of the bag and was still alive.

“He then kicked it and said it died at that point and knew it was wrong and that they would get caught but claimed he had been told to do it by the other youth.”

They appeared before Magistrates at Yeovil Youth Court.

The pair, now 17, pleaded guilty to jointly causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, namely a domestic rabbit, in Bruton by inflicting mental suffering and violent physical trauma upon the animal resulting in its death.

The Taunton youth, who had a previous conviction for arson, also admitted being in breach of a Youth Rehabilitation Order previously imposed by the courts by failing to attend appointments with the Probation Service.

The remains of the rabbit were examined by a vet who said it had extensive charring of the skin and fur, both ears were missing and the left hind limb was fractured and the lower part was missing.

Louise Eaves, defending the boy from the Bruton area, said he acknowledged it had been a “shocking event” which would trouble the court considerably but said that a spell in a Young Offenders Institution would not be appropriate.

She said that the first catalyst had been her client’s very recent use of drugs where he had been to a festival the previous day and consumed a considerable amount of ketamine.

The second catalyst was the influence of the other defendant who she said was “far more criminally sophisticated and experienced” than him.

She said: “He exercised peer pressure, bravado and all other type of teenage boy behaviour on my client, and because of his drug use he was in a very dark place at the time.

“He was depressed, had no direction and had no desire to do anything and did not care about himself or anything.”

Chris Baddoo, defending the Taunton youth, said he had a previous conviction for arson and that he wanted to change his past ways.

“He is disgusted with himself over this incident and does not seek to minimise what has happened at all,” he said.

“He finished his schooling at a pupil referral unit and there is a lot of work that needs to be done with him, although he accepts that with some of the breaches of his previous order he just couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.

The magistrates told the first defendant that it had been a “very serious offence” but said he had made very good progress since the incident and had admitted his guilt.

They sentenced him to a 12-month Youth Rehabilitation Order with supervision and a five-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.

The second youth was told he could have gone to prison for the offence but was instead sentenced to an 18-month Youth Rehabilitation Order with an Intensive Supervision and Surveillance package and a 12 week tagged curfew.

Both defendants were also disqualified from keeping any animals for the next two years and ordered to pay £150 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.