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Hunt ‘spills over’ onto sanctuary land

AN ARGUMENT has broken out after an animal sanctuary volunteer told police she was hurt when a hunt spilled over onto land they should not have been on.

Deborah Sparkes, a volunteer at the People for Animal Care Trust (PACT) animal sanctuary in Woodrising, Norfolk has lodged a complaint to the police about the behaviour of the West Norfolk Foxhounds.

She said she and Chris Rockingham, another volunteer at the sanctuary, suffered a bruised hip when three huntsmen galloped towards her and two others volunteers, forcing them to take cover.

But the joint master of the hunt denied any wrongdoing and said he was unaware any hounds or huntsmen trespassed onto land where they should not have been during the hunt last month.

Mrs Sparkes, 45, from Bishops Close, Thorpe St Andrew, said: ‘The huntsmen and dogs were totally out of control. The huntsmen galloped at us and I fell backwards, and hurt my hip. They besieged the sanctuary and people were too scared to go home. They should not be allowed to get away with it.’

PACT owner George Rockingham said: ‘The joint masters and the hound person lost control of about 35 hounds. Instead of travelling west over open farm land and wooded sections the dogs turned east and some came onto the sanctuary by our wildlife site, which fortunately is well fenced.

‘Our staff managed to turn the hounds back the way they had come. If they had not been successful then the 50 cats, 150 ducks, 50 cockerels, nine peacocks and a few rabbits which live free on the sanctuary would have been very much at risk.

‘Three of the staff were nearly run down by three horse riders at a gallop in a complete panic to recover their dogs. Two of our volunteers both suffered injuries as they jumped out of the way.’

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: ‘It sounds like it was a terrifying experience, and somebody should either apologise or action should be taken to look into the very serious charges that have been made. This is not tolerable and I look forward to meeting the people to hear of their experiences at first hand.’

Bill Borrett, joint master of the West Norfolk Foxhounds, said: "We are very sorry Chris Rockingham feels she was offended in some way by what took place.

‘But I cannot believe what they claim happened, did in fact happen. It would be very much out of character. We support the work the sanctuary does and don't want to fall out with anyone. We were hunting a line that was on land we had permission to be on, and I am not aware that any huntsmen or hounds encroached onto land where they should not have been.’

Police spokeswoman Nicola Thorndyke confirmed the Norfolk police force was investigating a complaint that happened at about 3pm on Monday, February 19.