“Out of control” fox hounds ran wild at a cat sanctuary for an hour-and-a-half after rushing onto their land during a , horrified staff have claimed.
More than 20 cats are still unaccounted for at Celia Hammond Animal Trust’s Greenacres branch near Hastings after staff claimed it was swarmed by “large” fox hounds yesterday afternoon.
Staff say they were forced to fight off the fox hounds with broomsticks as they tried to protect the 130 cats and one goat that live on the sanctuary set over woodlands and fields in East Sussex.
Footage recorded at the scene shows a large hound bound across woodland as it is chased off by one of the four members of staff on site at the time.
Last night the sanctuary recorded 60 cats as missing but near 40 have returned, although many have been left traumatised by their experience, staff say.
Celia Hammond, founder of the sanctuary, said those missing may never return.
The Pride of Britain winner, who also runs two animal clinics in London, is helping a team of staff and volunteers search for the missing cats today.
Describing the incident yesterday, she told Mirror Online: “i got a hysterical phone call from the manager to say there were hounds everywhere. They rushed out to try and get them away.”
The former supermodel claimed the hounds had split into two groups, one chasing a deer and the other a fox.
“Basically, everyone was in a complete state of panic. The animals were horrified, running in all directions. It was just a complete nightmare,” she added.
The hounds were chased off the land by staff and eventually brought under control by hunt members with the assistance of police.
Staff at the centre claimed the hounds broke away from a meet of the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt.
The hunt previously hit the headlines in November when a woman on horseback appeared to repeatedly whip a saboteur with a riding crop , an incident over which police said this week no further action would be taken.
The huntmaster is said to have accompanied police to the sanctuary after the incident to apologise.
“Some of the cats that fled have come back [and] they are completely traumatised,” Ms Hammond continued.
“They (the missing cats) are either going to come back and are going to be completely traumatised or they are not going to come back at all.
“We haven’t found any bodies at all but for me that doesn’t make it better.
“The hounds were completely out of control, this was absolutely not acceptable.”
Ms Hammond previously received a Pride of Britain Award for Animal Welfare.
The former supermodel quit the catwalk in 1970 and has since setup the Celia Hammond Animal Trust which has two clinics in South East London and the sanctuary near Hastings.
The sanctuary cares for cats that prove difficult to rehome.
Sussex Police said that they have received no report of a criminal offence being committed.
A spokesman said: “We had a call at 4pm on Tuesday (9 January) about some dogs which had inadvertently strayed on to a property at Stubb Lane, Brede, from a hunt.
“The dogs were rounded up by the hunt staff with police assistance. The huntmaster apologised to the property owner, and there has been no report of any injury or damage or of any criminal offence being committed.”
A spokesperson on behalf of the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt said: “We can confirm that hounds met at Udimore, near Rye on January 9 and were legally trail-hunting throughout the day to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.
“Although nobody from the hunt witnessed hounds following anything other than their original trail, it is suspected that a few hounds might have deviated from their trail onto the scent of a live quarry which they followed into the wildlife sanctuary.
“The hunt staff immediately removed the hounds from within the confines of the sanctuary with the help of the police who were also called.
‘The huntsman apologised to the owners right away for any inconvenience caused and mutually agreed with the owners that the hunt would repair any damage to fencing if any had occurred, although there was none visible at the time.
“The hunt is not aware of any missing animals or of any injuries caused during this unfortunate incident.”
This content was originally published here.