FOX HOUNDS INVADE OUR GREENACRES SANCTUARY
A very frightening and traumatic incident occurred on Tuesday 9th January 2018 at 4p.m at our Sanctuary in East Sussex when a pack of uncontrolled Fox hounds in full cry ran through the Sanctuary in pursuit of a fox and a deer forcing our resident cats who live freely in the grounds to flee for their lives. The Hounds invaded at afternoon feeding time, there were dogs running everywhere, completely out of control, terrified cats fled in all directions.
The five members of staff and volunteers who were present tried desperately to chase the dogs off and protect the Sanctuary animals. The Police were called and they helped to round up the dogs. It took an hour and a half to round up all the dogs by which time it was dark and we had no idea as to the fate of our cats. Initially 60 cats were missing.
The Sanctuary is located in over 80 acres of woodland and pasture and for the last 30 years has provided a safe permanent home to our 'unhomeable' rescued cats. It is also a rescue and homing centre for unwanted and abandoned pet cats and the huge number of stray cats and kittens we are called to help each year.
Our resident cats are free to live in the main Sanctuary house or choose from an array of sleeping chalets and outbuildings. Some of the cats are older semi-ferals and choose the cosy outdoor chalets to live. We also have many domestic cats who are elderly, shy, grumpy, temperamental or have health issues who come and go from the main house, which they share with our resident staff. Our staff know the cats individually, by name, are familiar with their routines, where they sleep and which feeding point they come to. The cats are of course all neutered and microchipped, we keep a close eye on them and they receive prompt veterinary treatment as required.
The Sanctuary's fields and woodland provide a valuable safe haven to a wide variety of wild animals who live in and pass through our land and a 'safe' buffer zone for our animals between the Sanctuary and surrounding land. The central area of the Sanctuary is fenced with stock fencing within which all the cats sleeping chalets are contained. The resident cats are able to come and go through this fencing if they wish to do so.
The events of Tuesday 9th Jan were extremely traumatic for our resident animals and shocking and distressing for our staff and volunteers who for about an hour and a half struggled to chase the large fox hounds back out of the Sanctuary grounds.
A member of staff recorded some of the incident on her mobile phone, VIDEO: https://youtu.be/Zy-_w-BAtyw
On the evening of Tuesday 9th January there were initially 60 cats missing - either hiding or possibly injured or killed - we had no idea. Sanctuary staff assisted by local volunteers mounted searches for any injured cats throughout the night. Much of the woodland is dense and was very difficult to search. Heavy rain around midnight brought more very frightened cats back to their sleeping chalets during the night.
By the morning of Wed 10th January there were still 21 cats missing.
On the 10th January we lodged a complaint with Sussex Police and responded to numerous media enquiries concerning this distressing incident.
By late afternoon on 10th January nine more cats had returned or been located hiding.
There were still twelve cats unaccounted for.
Our immediate priority was searching for our missing cats but we also had to try to find out what action could be taken to prevent this ever happening again. The whole incident left us shocked, distraught and very angry. The Sanctuary is by definition a place of safety and our Sanctuary has been so for the last thirty years - we felt totally violated.
The media covered the incident widely both in the papers and on the local BBC News over the next few days.
Jan 11th 2018: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-42654131
On our Facebook page alone this terrible incident generated over a million views. Your response to this tragedy - your sympathy, outrage, highlighting of what has occurred and demands for action have not gone unheard - your reaction has been immense.
Sussex Police have responded to our complaint and have commenced an investigation as to whether any criminal offences have been committed and we ourselves are taking legal advice.
THE MISSING CATS: Our staff and volunteers continued with searches of the Sanctuary land for the missing cats throughout the nights and days since. Missing cat posters were distributed to houses in the local area and pinned to telegraph posts around the village. Wildlife motion cameras have been used around the woodland and more remote areas of the Sanctuary in the hope of spotting frightened cats. The feelings of shock, sadness and anger has hit us in waves. The torment about what had happened to our missing cats is agonising, a moment of elation as cats were accounted for, unharmed, but quickly replaced by the deepest concern and worry about those still missing.
Jan 11th a.m: Two more cats, Sven and Molly return home, physically unharmed. Jan 12th a.m, Fabio returns home. Jan 13th a.m: Flump, is spotted twice. Jan 13th p.m: Harris returns home. Jan 14th a.m: Bindi is seen.
From Jan 14th - 26th six cats remain missing. We fear the worst for the fate of a trio of elderly cats, we don't think we are going to see them again and are heartbroken.
The Doctor, Sam and Ted are three semi-feral brothers, all black in colour. They were born into a colony of cats that we neutered and returned to a caravan park near Hastings many years ago. When their elderly feeder died a few years ago we brought them to the Sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives as the owner of the site no longer wanted them there. These three cats and their sister, Molly (brindle tortie - in photo) resided in a cat chalet near the main house and were well know to our Sanctuary staff, volunteers and visitors. At around 15 years old they didn't wander far and were often to be seen lounging on the veranda of their chalet. Their routines were very regular, as dinner time approached they would be first to appear. Their sister Molly was also initially amongst the missing cats but returned home after two days, but of her brothers there is no sign. They had no teeth and will not be able to find for themselves if they are still alive.
The Doctor, Sam and Ted.
Also Missing: Bagheera another black male cat had turned up as a stray at the Sanctuary last year. We caught him and discovered that he had a microchip registered to a woman who used to live in the village but had since moved to London. She was not in a position to have him back and he was not particularly friendly with people so we neutered him and released him again. He was last seen on Tuesday 9th Jan morning.
Nutmeg, a black and white female cat - part of a cat group with Badger and Flump. Nutmeg is middle aged and very feral, Flump reappeared on Saturday Jan 13th a.m. We still held onto the hope that Nutmeg may be in hiding and might return. - JAN 26th: Nutmeg is spotted on the outskirts of the Sanctuary - not in her usual territory. As far as we can tell she appears unharmed, but a lot more wary than usual.
Peter Pan, a very distinctive black and white male cat. One of a group of seven cats that we had to rescue after their previous owner purposefully set her home on fire. Four cats were rehomed but three of the cats were so traumatised that they never recovered enough to be able to rehome them and we decided to keep them in the peace and tranquility of our Sanctuary. Although not feral Peter Pan has always been a very disturbed cat, terrified of everything.
Bagheera, Nutmeg and Peter Pan
Jan 26th 2018: Wonderful news that after 17 days Nutmeg was spotted on the other side of the Sanctuary, so not in her usual territory. As far as we can tell she appears unharmed, but a lot more wary than usual.
THE AFTERMATH AND THE FUTURE: We are extremely anxious to ensure that such an event will not ever happen again. Over the last 30 years our Sanctuary has provided a permanent home for our unhomeable cats - mainly elderly semi-ferals and domestic cats with a variety of temperament and health issues who have enjoyed the freedom of a peaceful life safe from harm.
Sussex Police are investigating if any criminal offences have taken place and we are seeking legal advice.
We have over 80 acres of land, a mixture of woodland much of which is dense and pasture. The central part of the Sanctuary of several acres is already fully fenced but unfortunately there isn't much that will keep out a pack of hounds in full cry. We are receiving expert advice and estimates on how best the perimeter of the land can be protected. The Hunt have been informed in writing that they are forbidden to enter the Trust's land.
The investigations and enquiries will take some time, alongside these we must continue our usual rescue and rehoming work for which there is as always a huge need.
We will keep you updated and knowing that you are all behind us is more helpful that you can know.
FOX HUNTING AND THE LAW: Our supporters, as are we, are incredulous and outraged that a pack of Fox Hounds could be so uncontrolled as to be able to invade our Sanctuary.
We have been shocked to hear from so many other people who have suffered similar trespass and often the killing of animals by hounds on their property. This is happening regularly all over the U.K.
Hunting foxes, deer and hares with packs of dogs was banned in 2004.
The League Against Cruel Sports have an informative page on their website about what happened next and explain the difference between "Drag Hunting" where the hounds follow a pre laid trail e.g aniseed and a new type of hunting called "Trail Hunting" where an animal based scent such as fox urine is laid and those controlling the hounds do not know where the trail has been laid. If the hounds pick up the scent of a live fox there is a high risk that they will stray from the trail and chase it.
When hounds are out of control disasters such as the one we suffered at our Sanctuary are highly likely to occur and wild animals are at risk of being hunted and killed.
The League Against Cruel Sports think "that trail hunting is not a genuine sport but a cover for illegal hunting, designed to deceive the authorities and make the prosecution of illegal hunters very difficult. "Source: https://www.league.org.uk/trail-hunting
The League Against Cruel Sports is proposing that the Hunting Act needs to be amended to prevent Hunts exploiting exemptions in the law. https://www.league.org.uk/hunting-act
We have been overwhelmed by the response from the public all across the UK who had no idea that Trail Hunting and Drag Hunting are so different and that Trail Hunt appears to be traditional Fox Hunting under another name.
What has happened to us was a dreadful experience and has terrorised our staff and animals, it is not enough that this shouldn't happen to us again, it shouldn't happen to anyone or any animals.
February is the 13th Anniversary of the Hunting Act 2004 coming to effect, and despite hunting with dogs being banned in England, Wales and Scotland for more than 10 years, not to mention it still being legal in Northern Ireland, hunts are still killing.
Please sign and share the League Against Cruel Sports Petition to demand the strengthening of the Hunting Act: https://takeaction.league.org.uk/page/19719/data/1?ea.url.id=1262549&forwarded=true