A COUPLE who took in a squirrel 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.

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.

RSPCA 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.”