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John Lanyon Sampson, the Master of the Western Hunt in Cornwall, UK, lost his appeal against his conviction for having allowed his hounds to maul a cat to death while he was exercising them. Sampson, who owns a farm near St Buryan, was in charge of a pack of foxhounds when they killed Mimi, the companion cat of Carly Jose, in March 2021. Sampson’s son, also present in the incident, was filmed throwing the lifeless body of the 14-year-old Mini into a neighbour’s garden. Simpson was found guilty of being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control (an offense under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991) on 6th March at Madron, near Penzance. He was fined £480 and ordered to pay £350 compensation to Ms Jose, £775 court costs and a £48 victim surcharge. Following the death, a petition calling for “Mini’s law” to make it illegal for hunts to go near residential or public areas was created (and reached 101,997 signatures).

This was the first time a member of a hunt has been convicted under this law, as any previous attempts to prosecute hunts for endangering cats — as opposed to hunting illegally foxes under the Hunting Act 2004 — had not progressed. Mr Sampson’s appeal was important for the hunting fraternity as they wanted to continue getting away with terrorising domestic animals when they go out illegally hunting — or exercising their hounds — so losing the appeal at Truro Crown Court on 25th April was a significant milestone by the anti-hunting movement. Judge Simon Carr did not accept that the fact no person seemed to have been afraid of the dogs was justification for avoiding conviction. He said that the Dangerous Dogs Act should be taken by its “ordinary” wording and that a hypothetical person who is neither exceptionally brave nor fearful could reasonably fear for their safety because of the dogs.

Ms Jose said about the verdict to Cornwall Live: “It just means now they know it’s not acceptable to go to people’s homes and kill their pets. If it was a farm animal they have a right to shoot a dog. The dogs were dangerously out of control. I’ll carry on sabbing, carry on fighting for justice. Our girls are scared, we’re living in fear. This adds that protection to us. They know this is the outcome in future. We’re not gonna get Mini back so justice isn’t completely done, but at least this sets a precedent going forward.”