Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Bloodsport horror on council playing fields

An east Belfast woman has described the terrifying sight of greyhound trainers using live bunny bait to lure their racing dogs in a Sydenham park.

“Every day” in full view of residents’ homes, rabbits that have been transported to King George V Playing Fields in cages “ are being torn to pieces” by the greyhound dogs under the instruction of the trainers.

The resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Community Telegraph: “It’s horrifying and it makes me sick to see what they are doing to these defenceless little animals but I’m terrified to go out and confront them in case they are linked to paramilitaries.

“They aren’t waiting to do this in the evening or when it’s dark — they even do it during the day. This has been going on for months. One of my neighbours told me they had reported it to the police a while ago — the police came out but the greyhound trainers had disappeared by then. It hasn’t stopped them at all.

“On Monday they brought five rabbits in cages and they were all destroyed in this cruel way — it’s disgusting. I don’t know how this isn’t illegal. I know it’s upsetting my other neighbours too.The other day one of the greyhounds ran out of the park. It’s so dangerous they could easily go after a small child.”

A PSNI spokesperson said: “In the early afternoon of Tuesday July 26, police received a report that three males were releasing rabbits and letting dogs chase after them at playing fields in the Sydenham Avenue area.

“Police attended the scene 13 minutes after receiving the call however there were no individuals with dogs present. Officers then contacted the caller who stated that they had chased the males off. No description of the individuals was provided.”

Currently, police review each incident on its circumstances and under the new Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, Art 53.

A USPCA spokesperson said: “Rabbits are regarded as vermin and not protected by law. Hunting with dogs is not illegal so the police would not act.

“The park is a public space and hunting should not be permissible and the parks department could put a stop to it. The trouble is they won't stop, merely move on. The real problem is the absence of a law in Northern Ireland that bans hunting with dogs.”

Yesterday, July 26, a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: “We have had no reports of this activity but if it is happening after hours our staff resources would be limited. However we are happy to investigate this further and will work with our dog wardens to address this where possible. We would remind dog owners of their responsibilities when using public parks and we recently launched a new awareness campaign on responsible dog ownership.”

Police would advise any resident who witnesses incidents of this nature to report the matter immediately. Local Neighbourhood Policing Teams will be patrolling the playing fields routinely to monitor the area.

If you have concerns, these can also be raised directly with a member of the local Neighbourhood Policing Team, contact Inspector Moore on 07795 607103 or e-mail: BDistPottingerNPT@psni.pnn.police.uk

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