A teenage girl spent days in hospital after she was allegedly attacked by a large group of bloodhounds on a hunt in Wales.
Maddie Dunning, 18, was out on a walk on the Black Mountain on the western edge of Bannau Brycheiniog when she claims she was attacked by bloodhounds belonging to the Banwen Miners’ Bloodhounds hunt group on Sunday, October 29. The decades-old hunt group, which conducts clean boot hunting in the area where bloodhounds are trained to chase human runners rather than animals, say the dogs, which they’ve had for over two years, “are not aggressive in any way” and have denied that Maddie's injuries were caused by the animals.
Maddie was in Llanelli on the weekend of the alleged incident to visit her brother and was accompanied by her sister. The retail worker from Portsmouth said she was walking on the Black Mountain near Ammanford with her 17-week-old puppy Zena when the bloodhounds began running towards her.
“I was with my brother and sister before I got lost on the mountain with Zena,” Maddie told WalesOnline. “Just before we got to the mountain these two bloodhounds came and sniffed me and I found them to be friendly and thought little of it. I am a dog-lover and so my guard was down.
“After getting lost on the mountain I saw 15 horses in the distance and people dressed in smart clothing on the horses. Following them were around ten bloodhounds. Then one of the dogs started bolting towards me. One dog jumped on Zena while around three or four were jumping up at me too. I lost Zena from my grip and one of the dogs began dragging her across the field. I then tried to get the dog away from Zena and it bit my hand. Then the hunters came on their horses and started whipping the dogs to get them away from us. It felt like it went on for ages but it probably lasted for around three to four minutes.”
She says she's had to have two weeks off work and spent much of the following week in hospital after the incident. Maddie recalled: “I was just trying to save my dog, so I didn’t realise much at the time, but afterwards I realised how bad my injuries were. I had bite marks all over my hands and a lot of bruises.”
The hunt group agreed to pay Maddie £400 over the incident, although they say this was a gesture of goodwill due to the time she spent away from work following the incident and was not an admittance of liability. The hunt group also paid for the £700 vet fee for Ms Dunning’s dog as a “final settlement”.
“I was supposed to leave to go back home on that Sunday but I ended up staying all week because I had to go to the hospital for a few days where I had surgery,” Maddie added. “I had to have two weeks off work. Zena was also in the vets for four days. She had punctures to the stomach and her stomach was drooping down to the floor. She had bite marks on her hand, ears and legs too."
A spokesman for Banwen Miners’ Bloodhounds claimed that her account is inaccurate, and said their dogs are not aggressive. “They are often in contact with domestic animals and people and are never aggressive. Bloodhounds are known to be one of the least aggressive breeds,” they said. “These particular hounds have been with us for the last two years without any problems at all.
“On the day in question, the information passed to me was that the dogs met on the mountain and that the hounds approached Ms Dunning’s two dogs who were off the lead. The younger of her two dogs snapped at one of the hounds. Ms Dunning attempted to pick up her dog and our whipper-in actually witnessed her own dog biting her as she lifted it, no doubt fearing that there might be aggression.
“When I was called to the scene I arranged for everybody to be given a lift off the mountain and I then arranged transport for Ms Dunning and her dog to see a veterinary surgeon. Ms Dunning was concerned about her dog and did not complain to me of any injury to herself, nor did I see any injury.
“I rang the vet an hour later and asked if Ms Dunning had transport home and they told me she had a lift. A text conversation occurred a few days later between Mr Clive Rees, the hunt chairman, and Ms Dunning and there were messages back and forth between them. The hunt agreed to pay the vet bill and to reimburse Ms Dunning for a week off work which she said she had incurred and a payment was agreed in a full and final settlement.
“The hunt has at all times attempted to help Ms Dunning who had clearly injured herself in an encounter with our hounds, albeit that they had done nothing wrong. The hunt was on the mountain with a licensed and insured pack of bloodhounds with the permission of the commoners and landowners.
“Ms Dunning and her group had two dogs with them, both off-lead. None of the rest of her group were injured nor was the other loose dog attacked or injured in any way. We do not and never have accepted liability for what happened, but we were conscious of the fact that Ms Dunning had been bitten (albeit by her own dog) through no fault of her own during an encounter with our bloodhounds and for that reason we agreed with Ms Dunning to ensure that her dog was examined and treated appropriately by a qualified veterinary surgeon at our expense immediately and that she would be compensated as agreed for any time off work. We wish Ms Dunning a speedy recovery. Indeed, we believe that her minor injury was resolved very quickly. We have seen no evidence of any images suggesting otherwise.”
Maddie responded: "It is incorrect to say there was another dog with me and Zena on the mountain during the incident. It was me and my puppy. I was not in a field with two dogs off the lead. I was on public land with Zena and the hunt group's dogs ran to me and Zena. It's shocking to hear that the hunt group are claiming Zena bit me when I picked her up. That didn't happen.
"Yes, Zena was off the lead but she was right next to me and she was literally at my feet the whole time when the dogs began approaching us because she was so scared. The whole incident has scared me because, thinking back, I think it could have been much worse. This happened to me on public land and I wanted to speak about it to make people aware of what could happen in that area.”