A DRAG hunting group has disbanded before its first full season even started following an investigation by an animal welfare charity which found some of its dogs had been neglected.
advertising Alasdair Hilleary, committee chairman of the Highland Drag Hunt – which was due to start in the autumn – apologised after Scottish SPCA inspectors discovered four hounds in unacceptable conditions in Dores two weeks ago.
The hounds have since been rehomed and the animal welfare inspectors are taking no further action.
Yesterday, Mr Hilleary confirmed the demise of the group but said steps had already been taken for a new group to replace it, which he would consider participating in.
“By mutual consent and unavoidable circumstances we have decided to close it down,” said Mr Hilleary who denied it was as a direct result of the investigation.
He refused to expand on the reasons but believed there was still interest in the area for drag hunting, an alternative to fox hunting – which was banned in the UK five years ago – and involves hounds chasing a scent, which has been dragged over land ahead of the hunt.
After the neglected hounds were found, Mr Hilleary stated the group’s plans would be reviewed..
The dogs were discovered by the group’s honorary joint secretary Moira McCallum in pens which had not been cleaned and with piles of food.
She reported it to the Scottish SPCA and immediately resigned from the group.
“It has been a very sorry episode,” said the hunt’s joint master Georgie Rutherford. “We put our trust in someone, and they have let us down so badly.
“The remaining six couples of hounds are here with me at our home farm and are being kennelled and exercised properly and we are open to any inspection.” The first full season of hunting in the area – covering Moray, Nairn, Inverness, Loch Ness, the Black Isle and Sutherland – was due to run from September to April.
It could now be taken over by another group set up by Gordon Mackay, who plans to form a new hunt committee, but would not be able to start until autumn 2011.
“The new hunt would need to regain support within the area and make sure kennels and hounds are fully inspected to comply with hunt regulations to the full and make sure kennel management is adhered to at all times,” he said.
“I do not stand for neglect of any animals whatsoever. I will take full charge of kennels and hounds.
“We no longer have a drag hunt in the Highlands so we do need to get this right this time around for all and for the Highlands and for the sport of drag hunting.
“I am sure this will be a big disappointment to a lot of supporters wishing to see a new hunt in the area but I am sure we all agree this will take time and we must get it right to make sure a new hunt will be around for years to come for all to enjoy.”