A Cornish hunter has been fined after being convicted of being responsible for a pack of dogs that killed a ‘much loved’ pet cat.
John Lanyon Sampson, a farm owner near St Buryan, outside Penzance, appeared in Truro Magistrates’ Court, charged with criminal damage (to the cat) and being responsible for at least a dangerously out of control dog.
Sampson’s dogs killed Mini, a 14-year-old rescue cat owned by Carly Jose at Trafalgar Fields Estate in Madron on March 6, 2021, and her son Edward was seen throwing the body over the fence of a neighbour.
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Sampson did not deny that the dogs killed Mini, but pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The damages charge was not heard after the magistrates concluded that he had not acted recklessly and that there was no evidence that he had planned what had happened. passed, it was therefore withdrawn.
The magistrates, however, tried him on the charge of being the person responsible for the dogs.
The court heard that Sampson, 55, his son Edward and Edward’s partner Henrietta had taken the 21 dogs on horseback for regular exercise.
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Just before noon, six or seven of the dogs separated from the main pack and onto Trafalgar Fields Estate.
Several residents of the estate, including Ms Jose and neighbors Peter Nicholls and Charlie Knight, heard dogs barking and a commotion near Mr Nicholls’ house.
Mr Nicholls told the court how he was lying on his bed watching television when he heard an “almighty rumble”.
He told the court that he jumped up and went into the next room and heard a noise “like an elephant growl and a crying cat”.
Mr Nicholls said: “I ran out my front door, went to the middle of my front garden and saw a man with a whip in his hand. Before I left the house, I grabbed a stick that I walk with in case I had to beat a dog, in case the dogs kill the cat, or in case they come for me or one of my cats. “
Defense lawyer Alex West asked Mr Nicholls if the dogs had acted dangerously towards him. Mr Nicholls said no and they had hardly given him any notice.
Neighbor Mr Knight, whose testimony was read by Mr Rendell, said he saw the incident from his house across from Ms Jose’s. He told the court how he saw a black cat – Mini – trying to jump over a wooden fence and into Mr Nicholls’ garden.
Mini, Mr Knight said, was later grabbed by one of the dogs out of the fence and “maimed” by the pack.
“I went to have a better view,” he continued, “and the man [Sampson’s son, Edward] with them picked up the cat, looks around and throws it over the fence of the house in the back garden. I saw him run away and decided to follow him to get a clear view of him. “
Ms Jose also testified in person and said in court: “We had Mini in 2016 when my father passed Mini chose us and was 14 years old.
“She was at the front of the property and some of our cats were sore at the time. We put her up a bit in front. I was upstairs with my youngest daughter. I heard a lot of noise that sounded like dogs, lots of dogs, and I went down to the back garden first.
“I ran straight to the front door and got out and saw some dogs running away, a man standing there in a red hoodie with a hat. They were big hunting dogs. . The man looked a little sheepish, I immediately knew something bad had happened. I called him ab ***** da several times. He didn’t answer anything. “
Ms Jose said Mr Nicholls then handed Mini to her, with the cat looking “like she was sleeping”.
Mr Knight’s video, shown in court, showed Mr Nicholls running out of his house to the left of his house where the pack of dogs was, accompanied by someone’s loud cries.
Mr. Knight could then be seen coming out of his house and chasing the man with the dogs – Edward – down an alley. The man could then be heard telling Mr. Knight that he would be back once he “sorted” the dogs.
A veterinary autopsy by pet pathologist Dr Harriet Brownley-Brooks confirmed that Mini had died from being grabbed and shaken by “at least one dog” and would have died quickly – within seconds – after being bitten and thrown.
Chris Rendell, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The majority of the facts are accepted between the defense and the prosecution, that a group of dogs for which Sampson was responsible hunted and maimed Mini. And this mini died as a result.
“It is admitted that Mr Nicholls came out and Sampson was seen throwing himself over a wall. What is disputed is whether the dogs were dangerously out of control when the accused was responsible. It is not disputed that he was responsible.
“The dogs were clearly out of control. No one was in control of them when they went onto the grounds and killed Mini.
“If they were under control, they couldn’t have killed her. Mr. Nicholls took the stick out, the behavior in attacking the cat was such that he took the stick, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. . “
He then read a statement from Ms. Jose, made shortly after the attack: “This incident has affected me and my children immensely, we are devastated and heartbreaking.
“I can’t imagine the pain Mini went through. The children slept at night, upset and terrified that this would happen again.
“I feel paranoid about leaving the house because I don’t know what might happen to my pets when I’m gone.”
Mr Rendell continued that all six or seven dogs that “went crazy” in the field were acting dangerously “towards Mini, other cats, pets, children or vulnerable people.”
Defending Sampson, Mr West said the prosecution initially claimed Nicholls believed he might be injured by the dogs – but that prospect “faded” when he admitted they didn’t even not pay attention to him.
He added: “We cannot deny that they represented a danger to Mini the cat, it is accepted, they are responsible for the death of the cat.
“Is a dog dangerously out of control when it runs away from its owner to chase a cat?” It poses a risk of harming the cat if it catches, but is it dangerously out of control?
“What about a dog chasing a bird and killing it?” Would it be then?
“No one would say, in my opinion, correctly that it should get so dangerously out of control.”
The defense ended by saying that the law relates to danger to humans and not to animals, which a magistrates’ legal adviser disputed.
After a short break, the magistrates returned a guilty verdict on the charge of Sampson being responsible for the dogs that were dangerously out of control.
They said: “We are convinced that there are a number of ways a dog can be dangerously out of control. We are sure beyond a reasonable doubt that these dogs were, certainly when they attacked Mini the cat.”
Ms Jose, in tears, yelled at the court that any compensation awarded that she would like to give to a charity instead, and added, “We can’t bring Mini back.”
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Magistrates said of the sentence: “We consider it a serious offense because a much-loved pet cat was killed in such a savage and violent manner. We recognize Ms. Jose’s distress. The people in charge of the dogs must make sure that they are in control at all times, or else there may be these dire circumstances.
“This was the case when you were in charge of a large group of dogs whose instinct was to hunt, and it was in a quiet residential dead end.”
Sampson was sentenced to a total of £ 1,653, of which £ 350 will be paid as compensation to Ms Jose, then fined £ 480, £ 775 in court costs and £ 48 in victim fine surcharge.
He left Truro Magistrates’ Court shortly after being convicted, surrounded by his legal representatives, and was greeted by a dozen supporters of Ms. Jose, and more generally opponents of the hunts.
Sampson was heckled by anti-hunting activists as he left court.
Ms Jose told CornwallLive she felt the result was a landmark, given that to her knowledge no hunter has ever been convicted of killing someone’s pet in under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Martin Sims, director of investigations at League Against Cruel Sports, said of the case: “This sickening incident illustrates the devastation that fox hunts are having on local communities, pets and wildlife across the Kingdom. -United.
“Enough is enough. It is time for the government and landowners to act and put the barbaric world of fox hunting in the history books.
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