In March, the Western Hunt was responsible for killing a domestic cat on a quiet residential street in Cornwall. Footage captured shows the huntsman pick up the lifeless body of Mini and throw her over a garden fence.  

Carly, Mini's owner, set up the ‘Mini’s Law’ petition, a Public and Animal Safety Bill, to try and introduce new legislation that would ensure nothing like this ever happens again. The petition recently passed 20,000 signatures and has now been responded to by the Government;

“The police can take action under the Dogs Act 1871 where dogs are out of control and dangerous to other animals. This Government will not amend the Hunting Act. The Hunting Act 2004 makes it an offence to hunt a wild mammal with dogs except where it is carried out in accordance with the exemptions in the Act. The full details of the Hunting Act 2004 exemptions are available online at: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/37/schedule/1
Those found guilty under the Act are subject to the full force of the law. Enforcement of the Hunting Act is an operational matter for the police. This Government will not amend the Hunting Act.
The police can and do take action under the Dogs Act 1871 where there are dogs that are out of control and dangerous to other animals. Section 2 of the 1871 Act allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrate’s court by any individual, the police or local authorities, where a dog is “dangerous and not kept under proper control”. The court may make any Order it considers appropriate, to require the owner to keep the dog under proper control, or if necessary, that it be destroyed. The court may specify measures to be taken for keeping the dog under proper control, such as muzzling and remaining on a lead when in public.”

As expected, this response was insufficient. It comes not longer after hearing the police have finished their investigations into Mini’s death, with not much of an outcome. This only motivates the petition to go further, which still has plenty of time to reach 100,000, which would then see it be considered for debate in parliament.  

The Government should back Mini’s Law (Public and Animal Safety Bill 2021) to ensure safety to the public and animals from hunting activity, such as trail hunts and exercise of hunting hounds.

There are many incidents involving hunting hounds and the situation is now dangerously out of control. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident with a recent report finding that as of March 2021 there is on average one reported incident every two weeks.

Legislation should be introduced to prohibit any activity involving hunting hounds, such as trail hunts and hound exercise, taking place in a residential area or in any other public place.  

Background

Mini was a rescue cat who was in a perfectly safe environment, outside her house. That safe environment suddenly became a dangerous one when the Western Hunt unnecessarily passed through the street, and the hounds became ‘out of control’ and killed her. The hounds, who are trained to be blood-thirsty, were only doing what is engrained in them, killing. What followed this, however, was the shocking part whereby the hunt master was then caught on camera by a neighbour picking up the body of Mini and throwing her over a garden fence, to dispose of the evidence.

Following the incident, the Western Hunt issued a statement saying;  

“The hunt has been in contact with the cat owner to apologise unreservedly for the distress this has caused and is also helping the police with their enquiries. Incidents of this nature involving hounds are incredibly rare due to the professionalism with which the hounds are managed, however the hunt has taken this matter very seriously and is reviewing their procedures to prevent any reoccurrence.”

Those who have watched the footage of the incident, including Mini’s family, will be aware that it paints a very different picture to what the Western Hunt have painted in their public statement. Their concerned apology and suggestion that this was some sort of ‘freak accident’ that was totally out of their hands and unusual, just doesn’t suffice. The footage shows a person capable of handling someone's dead pet as if it were merely rubbish, and launching it over a fence, without any shred of decency or care for the cat, or its owners. As Carly, Mini’s owner stated when speaking to Cornwall Live, ‘people say, accidents happen, but this was no accident. This was an evil act’.

If the events of the 6th March had played out differently, and the hunt master had in fact stopped to admit wrongdoing and offer an apology and give Minis body to its owner, then potentially Carly and her family might have been provided with a bit more comfort during what has been a distressing time.  

You can sign the petition here.

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media