Cornwall huntmaster found guilty after cat mauled by hunting dogs

  • Watch Kathy Wardle's report

A man has been convicted over the death of a family cat which was mauled to death by hunting hounds.

Mini, a 14-year-old black cat, was attacked by around six dogs on a housing estate in West Cornwall in March this year.

Western Hunt master John Sampson, of St Buryan in Penzance, has been found guilty of being in charge of at least one dog dangerously out of control.

Truro Magistrates’ Court heard today (December 10) the incident was filmed on a mobile phone by a neighbour of the cat’s owner Carly Jose.

The video footage showed after a dog dropped the cat, Mr Sampson’s son, Edward, threw its body into a back garden of a neighbour in Trafalgar Fields, Madron, Penzance.

Chris Rendell, prosecuting, told the court Mr Sampson, his son Edward and his son’s girlfriend were on horseback exercising a pack of around 21 dogs in fields close to the estate on the morning of March 6.

Around six dogs broke away from the main pack and entered the cul-de-sac where they chased, caught and killed the cat.

Neighbour Charlie Knight filmed the incident on his mobile phone, while another neighbour, Peter Nicholls, spoke to Edward Sampson, a whipper-in.

Mr Nicholls told the court he heard barking and a meow and went outside to see if it was one of his cats.

“I was lying on my bed watching TV when I heard an almighty rumble run past like a heard of elephants and I heard a cat meow, so I jumped up and ran into another room,” he said.

“I see some dog tails, so I knew something was wrong.”

A sketch of John Sampson in court (third from left) Credit: Elizabeth Cook

Mr Nicholls said he grabbed his walking stick and went outside and saw Edward Sampson.

“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,” he said.

“I grabbed the stick just in case I had to beat the hounds off the cat, or they came at me.”

Asked what happened next, Mr Nicholls said: “He whipped the two hounds away and coming past me I said I’d seen what he had done, and he said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll be back in a minute’.

“He then ran off and spoke to Carly next door, apologised to her and said he was sorry and then ran off towards the kennels being pursued by the bloke filming him.”

Mr Knight said he saw a group of hounds chasing the cat, which he said tried to jump over a fence to get away, before it was mauled by the pack.

The cat was mauled to death by dogs.

Hunt master John Lanyon Sampson decided not to give evidence at Truro Crown Court. The court instead heard a statement given to police by Mr Sampson. When asked what control measures were in place to mitigate risk Mr Sampson told officers ''You've got to have help. You can't take them out on your own.''

When officers asked if hunt staff had had any training to mitigate this kind of risk, Mr Sampson replied ''We haven't got anything on paper.''

The Western Hunt previously released a statement at the time of the incident which read:

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.’’

A statement from the cat's owner Carly Jose was read out in court. It said ''I am devastated and heartbroken. My children aren't sleeping and are terrified of it happening to another pet. I'm feeling paranoid about leaving the house.''

Outside court today Carly Jose told ITV News ''I'm just feeling that today has set a precedent for hunts that it's not acceptable to kill people's pets in their own home and that will not be acceptable going forward.''

In sentencing Truro Magistrates told John Sampson they considered this a very serious offence.

Mr Sampson was found guilty of being in charge of more than one dog dangerously out of control. He was fined £1653 to cover court costs including £350 compensation, which Ms Jose says will go to animal charities in Mini's memory.