Family cat savaged to death by 27 hunt hounds (then handed back in dog food bag) was killed because she ‘panicked and tried to run away’ says huntsman

An elderly family cat was savaged by a pack of up to 27 hunting dogs because she ‘panicked’, a huntsman claimed yesterday.

Moppet, an 18-year-old deaf tabby, was set upon by the pack of hounds which was running through land belonging to her owners.

The family pet’s corpse was returned to its devastated owners in an empty dog food bag two days after being chased and killed near Ravenscar in Scarborough.

Hunt chairman Bill Dobson yesterday said the beloved cat’s death was ‘regrettable’.

He said: ‘The cat panicked and tried to run away, which set the dogs off.’

Moppet had been left out in the family’s garden, in Stoupe Brow, near Ravenscar in Scarborough, to stretch its legs when the attack happened.

Retired owners Les, 75, and Margaret Atkinson, 59, heard a commotion near their house and noticed the huntsman off his horse.

They feared the worst when they later found blood on the ground and realised their elderly tabby was missing.

They later spoke to two members of the hunt, who admitted the dogs had killed the cat by ‘accident’ and the pet’s body was returned two days later in an empty dog food sack.

The incident was reported to the police, but after an investigation officers decided to take no further action.

The couple live in countryside and the hunt can legally cross their land as a public right of way runs through it.

Mrs Atkinson, a retired teacher, said: ‘It was horrific. She didn’t stand a chance. She was an old lady and it was not the way for an innocent animal to meet her end.

‘I can’t bear the thought that in her last few moments she was in terror. She didn’t deserve to die like that.’ The hunt said the dogs attacked when the cat ‘panicked’ and tried to run off.

Mrs Atkinson said they had yet to receive an apology from an official from the Staintondale and Goathland hunts.

‘Moppet was a big part of the family. We bought her the year my daughter went to secondary school. She’s a 30-year-old teacher now and is married. She was devastated when we told her.’

Mr Atkinson, a retired coach builder and grandfather, said: ‘We’ve spent a lot of time crying. She would curl up on our knees every night and would wake us up in the morning. I’m retired, so I would spend hours talking to her.’

The incident happened last week and fortunately the couple’s other cat George managed to hide in a stable and escaped.

‘The cat panicked and tried to run away, which set the dogs off’

The couple said they were alerted by the sound of the hounds and a huntsman was later seen ‘riding off with something bloodied in his hand.’

Several hours later when two of the huntsmen passed their home again, the Atkinsons asked if they knew what had happened. They said they believed their cat had been killed by the hounds.

Mrs Atkinson said: ‘They came back a bit later and said that was true and told us Moppet had probably been taken because they didn’t want us to see her in that state.’

Jean Clemmit, Staintondale hunt master, said she wasn’t present at the time of the incident.

She said: ‘It’s very regrettable and is upsetting for everybody but we can’t undo what has happened. I haven’t been involved in anything like this before. We will take preventative measures.’

Bill Dobson, chairman of the Goathland hunt, added: ‘We always try to control the hounds and normally they are very well behaved.

‘We aren’t barbaric, we don’t set out to cause problems for people. This is a very unfortunate thing and it’s regrettable that the dogs set upon the cat.’

The hunts were on a ‘legal trail hunt’ in which an animal-based scent is laid down for the pack of dogs to follow.

Mr Atkinson said: ‘We just heard a commotion outside and saw the hounds and a huntsman off his horse. He just kept saying ‘I’m sorry.’ Then he got back on his horse and he rode off.’