A hunt master has been fined £480 for being in charge of a dangerously out-of-control pack of dogs that mauled a pet cat to death in a case that prompted a campaign for the law to be tightened.
Western Hunt master John Sampson was convicted after his son threw the animal’s dead body over a fence on a quiet housing estate in Penzance, Cornwall.
Mini, the 14-year-old black-and-ginger cat, was targeted and attacked by around six dogs one morning in March.
The case inspired a campaign called Mini’s Law calling for a ban on trail hunts and hound exercise in residential areas.
A post-mortem examination showed Mini died as a result of being “grabbed and shaken” by at least one dog, with death occurring “rapidly”.
The rescue cat’s owner, Carly Jose, said the attack had left her “absolutely devastated and heartbroken” and her children scared to leave the house.
Chris Rendell, prosecuting, told Truro magistrates that Sampson, his son and his son’s girlfriend were on horseback exercising around 21 dogs in fields.
Around six dogs broke away from the pack and went into the cul-de-sac where they chased and killed the cat.
Neighbour Peter Nicholls told the court he heard barking and a meow and “an almighty rumble run past like a herd of elephants”. He said he saw Edward Sampson, a whipper-in, whose job was to keep the hounds together.
“He had a whip in his hand, and I saw the cat fall from the nose of the dog, and he was running and he scooped the body of the cat up off the road and flicked it straight over the hedge into my garden,” Mr Nicholls said.
He added: “He whipped the two hounds away and coming past me I said I’d seen what he had done, and he said, ‘Sorry, I’ll be back in a minute’.
“He then ran off and spoke to Carly next door, apologised to her and then ran off towards the kennels being pursued by the bloke filming him.”
The video footage shows how after a dog dropped the cat, Edward Sampson threw the lifeless body over a fence into a garden.
Charlie Knight, the neighbour who filmed the attack on his phone, said the cat had tried to jump over a fence to get away before being mauled.
“A man appeared who picked up the cat, looked around, which I perceived to be him looking for witnesses, then threw the black cat over the wooden fence into the back garden,” he said.
“I saw the man fleeing, so decided to follow him to get a clear shot of his face for the video. He said to me he was coming back once he had sorted out the hounds.”
In a victim impact statement written afterwards, Ms Jose said the attack had affected her family “massively”, leaving them scared to go out of their home.
“I am absolutely devastated and heartbroken and I cannot imagine the suffering she has gone through,” she said.
“My children are not sleeping at all at night, and they are so upset and terrified of it happening to another one of our pets.” Ms Jose said her children “cried themselves to sleep”.
She added: “Nothing will bring Mini back or take away the trauma Mini and we have been through.”
Magistrates fined Sampson £480 and ordered him to pay £775 costs, a £48 surcharge and £350 compensation to Ms Jose.
Presiding justice Brenda Counsell said: “In deciding our fine we have taken into account the location of the offence - a quiet residential cul-de-sac - and the number of dogs involved in the attack.
“We have also taken into account you have no previous convictions, and this was an isolated incident and there have been no previous complaints against these dogs.”
Sampson, 55, of St Buryan, Penzance, had denied criminal damage and being the owner or person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control in a private or public place.
The defendant, who was represented by a barrister, did not call any evidence but was cleared of criminal damage.
The Mini’s Law petition must be considered for debate by MPs after it achieved more than 100,000 signatures.
Want us to report on an issue that matters to you? Contact us by clicking here.