A NORTH Yorkshire hunt has apologised for a Boxing Day incident in which a family pet was mauled to death by a pack of hounds.

But the Kirkbymoorside-based Sinnington Hunt has angered the family which owned the cat by suggesting it would not have been killed if a car had not been parked in its way. A spokesman for the RSPCA, which has launched an investigation, claimed the incident highlighted the barbaric nature of hunting.

Distraught Joan Salmon, of Swineherd Lane, Kirkbymoorside, rushed in vain to save her 11-year-old grey tabby Hobbit as it was attacked in her front garden.

Sinnington Hunt chairman James Holt apologised for the 'unfortunate incident', but said: "A car, parked in the gateway to the wood beside Mrs Salmon's home, was blocking the entrance to the wood.

"Had the car not been there, the huntsman could have been close to his hounds and the death of this cat would not have occurred."

Mr Holt said: "Two hounds came upon the cat in a wood, Kildare Plantation, adjacent to Mrs Salmon's house, got hold of it and tumbled through the fence into her garden from the wood.

"One of the hunt staff leapt off his horse and went to help the cat, but death was instantaneous."

Responding to the hunt statement, Mrs Salmon's daughter Anna, 22, said: "One of the huntsmen did get into the wood, so it was possible to get into the wood. That's just them being petty because they know what has happened."

She said: "It is our garden. It is our land - they were actually on our land.

"There are so many fields and so many places for them to go, there is no need for them to come into towns and there are plenty of people around here who don't like it."

Miss Salmon said: "We saw Hobbit shoot out, with the hounds after him and they got him on the steps outside. There were about six to eight dogs around him.

"We were all standing at the window screaming and shouting, but there was nothing we could do. It was terrible, the most horrific thing I've ever seen."

Chief Inspector Paul Stilgoe, of the RSPCA, said: "We have removed the cat for a post-mortem and will be talking to witnesses and local people.

"Hounds should be trained to the scent of a fox, not just any small furry creature that happens to be in a woodland. It just shows how barbaric the practice is."

Only a week ago, the RSPCA announced it would not be taking legal action against Sinnington Hunt members or staff following the discovery of two injured fox cubs in a man-made earth on hunt-owned land at Muscoates Whin, near Kirkbymoorside.

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