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Kent Hounds fox hunting cruelty

Kent Hounds’ terriermen who used superglue to treat dogs’ injuries banned from keeping animals

66-year-old Robert Mills and his son, 22-year-old Jack Mills, have pleaded guilty to two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. Kent police, along with the RSPCA, raided their home in January 2023 and discovered dogs with horrific injuries.

The men appeared in Folkestone Magistrates Court on 20 December. According to KentOnline, The men had used superglue to glue up their terrier Fudge’s lip after he was maimed while fox hunting. The dog was also found to be missing a number of front teeth. Another dog, a lurcher called Rose, was discovered with an oozing nail bed, scars across her face, and a large part of her tongue missing. The dogs were seized by the RSPCA.

The prosecutor told the court:

“There was damage to the skin of Rose’s lower jaw with the site of a deep tear or cut visible on the lower jaw and a loss of the lip margin contiguity.

A significant amount of the tongue had been lost in a surgical or traumatic incident. The lesions are consistent with those that could be received in a fight between this dog and a large mammal such as a dog, fox, or badger.”

The men’s phones were seized during the raid and examined. The police found messages between the men, stating that the dogs were being used to hunt foxes. The messages showed that Fudge was injured on 16 November 2021, and that one of the men had cut off some of the tissue on Fudge’s lip, then glued the wound with industrial adhesive.

Police also found photos of Jack Mills smiling while holding a dead fox.

On top of all this, police found more messages. One said:

“Had any joy with the fox?”

The reply included a photo of a dead fox, and read:

“Went out this morning, Fudge killed it.”

 

Jack Mills of Kent Hounds
This photo shows an obvious dig out as terrierman Jack Mills poses with a dead fox, with his terrier still biting the poor animal. Photo via RSPCA

Paltry punishment

The men’s defence barrister told the court:

“Mr Mills says he has owned dogs all his life. He deeply regrets his actions and Mr Mills Junior says this is a steep learning curve. They are both devastated that they have been involved in these proceedings, but they have cooperated.”

Those of us who follow news on fox hunting will obviously feel cynical when we read about the Mills’ alleged remorse. Some might argue that the men are only sorry because they got caught.

Despite the dogs’ horrific injuries, the men’s punishments were paltry. They are banned from keeping animals, and they could have gone to prison – if the judge had so wished. But they each received a suspended sentence of 23 weeks. This means that if they don’t break the law for two years, they will walk away free men. They each have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, and pay £654 in costs and surcharges.

The biggest win for Kent’s foxes was the ban on these criminals keeping dogs. The judge said:

“We are also granting a disqualification order for both of you in relation to owning, keeping, or participating in controlling or transporting any animals for five years, no application may be made to appeal this for two years.”

The men have three other dogs, who will also be rehomed, and they are also being forced to give up their chickens and ferrets.

 

Kent Hounds animal cruelty
Rose is seized during the police/RSPCA operation. Photo via RSPCA

Kent Hounds ‘haemorrhaging support’

The prosecution against the men was part of a greater operation by Kent police at the beginning of 2023, where officers raided a number of terriermen’s homes in the southeast of England.

On the day of the raid, West Kent Hunt Saboteurs posted that the home of “a key terrierman” of the East Kent with West Street Hunt had been raided. Since then, hunts in Kent have amalgamated and there is now only one pack left standing, which has been renamed Kent Hounds.

On 24 December, the sabs celebrated the convictions, and wrote:

“We are learning of a deepening crisis at the Kent Hounds! Our source inside the hunt has let us know that the hunt is haemorrhaging support as a result of the news last week that two terrier men from the hunt were convicted of horrific animal abuse.
With more members of the hunt due in court in the new year, several landowners have already suggested the hunt won’t ever be allowed back.”
The sabs continued:
“Let’s not beat around the bush; things could not be any worse for the last remaining fox hunt in Kent. The amalgamation of the East Kent Hunt with West Street and the Ashford Valley Tickham has spectacularly failed and now with more convicted criminals in their ranks things are going from bad to worse!”

We need justice for foxes

This is the first of a number of trials from this police operation – named Operation Aurora – to have been concluded. West Kent Sabs wrote:

“We expect the other terrier men connected with the Kent Hounds will be very worried now!”

Just days before their conviction, hunter Sam Staniland appeared in court as part of the same police/RSPCA operation. He pleaded not guilty on 18 December to six charges under the Animal Welfare Act. The charges relate to terrier work carried out by Staniland while at the Essex and Suffolk Hunt. His phone was seized in January 2023 when his house and workplace were raided by police accompanied by the RSPCA.

Like Robert and Jack Mills, Staniland wasn’t charged under the Hunting Act. But his numerous charges under the Animal Welfare Act could mean that he faces a prison sentence if found guilty (although if the Mills’ case is anything to go by, we won’t hold our breaths). In May 2023, the Sentencing Council announced that sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty offences committed on or after 29 June 2021 had increased to a maximum of five years in prison.

The numerous loopholes of the Hunting Act mean that men like Robert and Jack Mills aren’t being tried for hunting a wild animal with dogs, despite photo evidence of Jack holding up a dead fox and smiling. We need to scrap the Hunting Act and introduce tighter legislation so that men like these can not continue to terrorise foxes.

Although there is some justice for dogs Rose and Fudge, there is little justice for the foxes who were tortured to death. But the Operation Aurora court cases may well spell the end of Kent’s last remaining hunt.

 

  • You can help hunt saboteurs in Kent to shut down the county’s last remaining fox hunt by donating to the sabs here.
  • Sign Protect the Wild’s petition to introduce the Hunting of Mammals Bill, which aims to do the job the Hunting Act never did.
  • Our online resource Protectors of the Wild gives more information on the Animal Welfare Act here.

 

Images via the RSPCA