A local hunt group says it has apologised to charity staff after an 'unfortunate incident' saw a pack of hounds cause chaos at a cat sanctuary this week.
The dogs, from the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt, entered land owned by the Celia Hammond Animal Trust in Stubb Lane at around 4.30pm on Tuesday (January 9).
According to the charity, which runs a sanctuary for more than 130 cats on the land, the hounds were ‘out of control’ and had to be chased away by staff, who also phoned police for help.
Writing on Facebook after the incident a spokesman for the charity said: “The hounds invaded at afternoon feeding time, there were dogs running everywhere, completely out of control, terrified cats were fleeing in all directions.
“Staff and volunteers who were present tried desperately to chase the dogs off and protect the animals.
“The police were called to help the hunt round up the dogs - this took over an hour.
“Sanctuary staff and volunteers have mounted searches throughout the night. Much of the woodland is dense and very difficult to search. Heavy rain late last night brought many more very frightened cats back to their sleeping chalets.”
The charity says around 60 cats went missing in the chaos, with all but 12 eventually being found.
The charity, which lets the cats wander free across the site, says it has grave concerns for those still missing.
A Countryside Alliance spokeswoman speaking 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.”
A Sussex Police spokesman confirmed officers had attended the scene, but said no crime was recorded.
A police spokesman said: “We had a call at 4pm on Tuesday (January 9) 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.”