A Charlton Athletic fan has been jailed for throwing a punch at Crystal Palace FC’s eagle mascot during a football match.
Daniel Boylett, 36, was today locked up for a total of 21 months for violent disorder and the attack on bald eagle Kayla during an away game at Selhurst Park in September 2015.
He was also banned from going to any football matches for six years.
Boylett, from Eltham in south east London, launched his attack on the 25-year-old bird of prey during a third-round cup tie which had descended into violence.
The eagle handler was walking Kayla around the pitch on his forearm when Boylett swung the punch.
Last month a jury found Boylett guilty of violent disorder and attempted criminal damage for the attack on Kayla after a trial lasting two weeks.
On Friday at Croydon Crown Court he was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for violent disorder and three months in prison for attempted damage on the eagle. Both sentences will run concurrently.
Boylett’s lawyer claimed he had acted in self-defence as he did not expect to see a bird flying towards him.
The eagle sanctuary in Dartford where Kayla lives today said they were pleased Boylett had been jailed and his sentence shows attacks on animals are being taken seriously.
Samantha Ames, one of the directors at Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation, told the Standard: “We are feeling very pleased that it’s been taken seriously and we are glad it sets a bit of a precedent to people.
“The way you treat animals is taken seriously.
“We were shocked and quite sad when it happened. It was quite a sad thing to hear about because she’s an innocent animal and she’s so beautiful and has such an amazing story.
“For someone to try and punch her we were shocked and sad.”
Ms Ames said Kayla was fine following the attack but since then the club and handlers have changed the way she interacts at the football ground.
“Now they don’t really take her close to the stands,” she said. “Which is unfortunate for the other people. ”
Prosecutor Daniel Higgins previously told the court: “As he [Chris Belsey, eagle handler] passed the stand he noticed three or four fans were shouting abuse and one of these three or four lent over the barrier and threw a punch directed at Kayla.
“Mr Belsey is unsure if the punch directed at the eagle had landed.”
Kayla joined Crystal Palace, whose nickname is the Eagles, as a mascot in 2010. Female bald eagles typically have a wingspan of around seven feet and live for an average of 20 to 30 years.