If hunts were chasing man-laid trails then there would be no reason for them to trespass and cause havoc. The humans responsible for laying trails would be aware of where they were and were not welcome, and could easily avoid forbidden farmland, woods, nature reserves, gardens, animal sanctuaries, schools, even residential streets in towns and villages.

Except hunts do not chase man-laid trails. They continue to seek and pursue live quarry, be it fox, hare, deer or mink. Live quarry do not recognise human boundaries. Hunted animals run wherever they can to try to escape. And that's why complaints of hunters and their hounds trespassing across land, worrying livestock, trashing crops and fragile habitats, terrorising and sometimes killing much-loved pets continue to come in from people who can't understand why in 2017, over twelve years since hunting with hounds was banned, these barbaric bloodsports still go on.

Hounds Off provides specialist help, support, advice and back-up for people affected by hunt trespass via our website www.houndsoff.co.uk, social media platforms and in person with face-to-face meetings and on-the-ground patrols.

At a Joint Meeting of the Staintondale and Goatland Hunts in Yorkshire six years ago, hounds attacked and killed an elderly pet cat called Moppet. Hounds Off contacted Moppet’s owners and supported them during this difficult time. When the Staintondale Hunt trespassed in the same garden again a month later, they were officially Warned Off using our Belt & Braces Approach.

We received the following, heartfelt, email;

“How kind of you to write to us regarding our loss, we were really touched. People who don't keep pets have no idea how devastating it is to lose one, and to lose one the way we did was horrible. We have read reports where readers have written in saying, “How stupid were the Atkinson’s in letting their cat out when the hunt was about,” and another which said, “It was the cats fault for running away!” They hurt very much, but for every one like that, there were two dozen totally opposite, like yourself, who understand how important pets are to the lives of people who keep them.

“Our cat was part of our family and just as important as one of our children in many ways, and over the last eleven years since I retired I have spoken more words to her than any of them. She used to follow me everywhere, out in the garden, down the lane, even up on to the moor with me. She would jump up on our bed and wake us every morning, and up on to my shoulder and I’d walk round the house with her.

“I am not a weak-minded person but I have cried bucket fulls since her death. Cats and dogs are so loyal and trusting, I feel I have let her down, I know I haven’t, but it still doesn’t stop me feeling guilty. If my cat can’t roam freely on our private property without being attacked by a pack of hounds out of control, it is a sad day for the world. Thank you for the website address too, I will make full use of it.”

On Boxing Day in Devon, at the same time as a sleeping Moppet was ambushed in his garden, hounds from the Axe Vale Hunt ferociously attacked a fox in a field owned by Sidmouth resident Priscilla Lynch. Ms Lynch intervened and tried to wrestle the hounds away. So did a passing motorist who jumped out of his car, crawled through a hedge on his knees and literally threw himself upon the fox in an effort to protect it.

Ms Lynch said, “Dusk was approaching and I could hear horsemen on the road and the sounds of a hunting horn. I went to put our dogs in the car and then three hounds came in through the gate, then the fox came through the hedge and, before I knew it, the whole pack was on it. I started to scream and shout and tried to get them off, and then a young man came through the hedge and waded in amongst the hounds and fought them off before crouching over the frightened animal to save it from being ripped to pieces. But it was fatally wounded and died 20 minutes later.

“I told the people on horseback and their followers to clear off and we wrapped the fox up and hid it so they couldn’t cut the head and tail off for trophies.”

Hounds Off volunteers collected the dead fox and a post mortem was conducted. The fox was a male and in previously good condition. It died from the trauma and shock of puncture wounds, tears and a collapsed lung “consistent with biting by hounds.”

We also launched an appeal to identify the mystery motorist. He was Alun Metcalf from Cardiff. If we had any sayso regarding medals for bravery in the field of animal protection, Alan and Priscilla would have received the highest honour.

Hounds Off spoke to the Axe Vale Hunt Chairman at that time, a Mr Williams. He told us, “We use a false scent but I don't know what we use. If a fox jumps up the fox’s smell is a lot better and they [hounds] follow that.”

Don't these #TrailHuntLies sound familiar? And guess what - the police decided not to press charges in either of the above cases.

Just in case anyone thinks that the examples above are old, extreme and rare occurrences, sadly they are not. Remember the widely reported incident of a fox that was hunted from open country into the outskirts of Macclesfield and killed in a private garden while residents cowered with fright indoors? It happened last February.

In 2016 Hounds Off supported ninety-four individuals who contacted us regarding trespass and havoc from seventy-three different hunts. 2017 looks like ending up much the same with pleas for help from people who have had their lives blighted and endangered, property invaded, livelihoods affected, peace breached, animals frightened and injured.

Only yesterday we received an appeal for advice from smallholders in Somerset. They had refused their local hunt permission to enter their eleven acres but the next day this hunt turned up anyway and tried to carry on regardless. Thankfully the smallholders stood their ground and forced the hunters to return from whence they came. We are proud to stand with such people.

Arrogant, ignorant, disrespectful, abusive, aggressive, cruel, criminal behaviour from hunts who cling desperately to the outdated notion that they can go where they like and do as they please is no longer acceptable. If you or someone you know has suffered any of this then point them towards us at www.houndsoff.co.uk, or the League Against Cruel Sports.

We will support you. You are not alone.