FURIOUS ANIMAL welfare campaigners were left holding the proverbial baby after a Greyhound trainer dumped one of his animals on them following a protest at a Somerset racetrack.
What was meant as a peaceful protest against the industry's treatment of its animals descended into a nasty confrontation with alleged clashes between the protesters and dog trainers at the last meeting of the year on December 27th at the Abbey Moor Stadium, near Glastonbury, Somerset.
One protester claims she was shoved by one dog trainer who went on to throw their demonstration placards into a nearby river.
Demonstrators claim that another trainer then threatened to shoot his own dog in front of them if it failed to win its race.
And, in a grim reminder of why they are protesting against greyhound racing, the Avon and Somerset Greyhound Action group ended up leaving the track with a dog of its own, claiming that after the meeting yet another trainer had simply handed over one of his dogs saying it was 'no use to him anymore'.
The hapless race dog, a 19-month-old called Jenny, is now in the care of one of the campaigners, who - like the track owners - were yesterday seething about the dramatic events of the night in question.
The confrontation unfolded outside the stadium where unlicensed races take place. The recently revamped stadium has been the target for a series of protests by the Avon and Somerset Greyhound Action group since it started staging races in October.
Some 20 demonstrators gathered at the entrance and were handing out leaflets when punters, dog owners and trainers arrived.
Event organiser Derren Sealey said he was unaware of any assault, although he agreed one dog racer, who said his car had been kicked by demonstrators, had confronted the crowd and thrown some of their display boards into the river.
Mr Sealey said tensions had been heightened by vandalism at the stadium over Christmas, with attacks on the track's tractor, sabotage to its racing hare and threatening graffiti sprayed on the wall claiming to be from the Animal Liberation Front.
The protesters at the scene strongly denied any connection with the acts of vandalism and criminal damage.
Police confirmed only two people were arrested as a result of the drama at the stadium gates - a female campaigner and her 15-year old son.
She was arrested for swearing and paid a £80 fine after pleading guilty to a public order offence while her son, who had wrestled with police officers as he tried to help his mother, received a caution.
Gina Harris, from Bristol, said she had lodged a formal allegation of assault with police. "It was shocking, not what we had expected or wanted at all," she said.
"Several of the trainers and racers had dogs with them, and one said, ‘Right, if my dog doesn't win tonight, I'm going to bring it out and shoot it in front of you all’. It was disgusting that someone would even say they were going to do it, even if they were just trying to wind us up. We knew nothing of any vandalism, we are a 100 per cent peaceful and lawful group who would never have anything to do with anything like that."
The campaigners remained outside the stadium throughout the meeting and at one point there were as many as five police patrol cars at the scene.
An Avon and Somerset police spokesman said: "Two people were arrested on suspicion of public order offences and taken to Yeovil police station. A juvenile was later released with a caution and a woman was given a fixed penalty notice."
Tony Peters of Greyhound Rescue UK, the campaign’s governing group said that Jenny, the greyhound handed over to the campaigners was thin, traumatised and suffering from several racing injuries - including a deep gash on one of her front legs- some of which were believed to have been sustained earlier that evening. She also had an old injury to the middle of her back which, according to a vet who examined her later, was consistent with her having been hit with some sort of object.
"Thankfully, she is now being well cared for in a permanent loving home, where she is putting on weight and being nursed back to health." Said Mr Peters.
Mr Peters added: "In view of the behaviour of the greyhound trainers, it's quite understandable that one of the protesters should resort to swearing and we regard it as deplorable that the police arrested her and her son, especially considering that they failed to apprehend the vicious thug who attacked another of the demonstrators.
*Avon & Somerset Greyhound Action may be contacted at email@example.com or on 07899 715216.
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