FAMILIES watched in horror as a fox was ripped to shreds in front of them by a pack of hunt hounds.

The incident, in Foxes Bank Drive, Cirencester, happened at around midday on Monday, February 10.

One resident, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said he watched the fox dart under his back garden gate before a chasing pack of hounds smashed it down.

“Some of them went in and grabbed the fox and bought it out into the front garden where they ripped it apart,” he said. “There were about 20 to 30 hounds but there were no huntsmen to be seen.

“There was blood and guts all over the garden, it was gruesome. A lot of the neighbours saw it happen, even families.”

The former military man said his wife was still in shock from what she had seen. “We have two cats as well and at first we thought they could have been out there,” he added. “We wouldn’t have been able to save them.”

Other angry residents who also witnessed the mauling said they were appalled the dead fox was abandoned by the hounds and left on the man’s lawn until police collected it.

One neighbour posted this image of the fox. He said that the Master of the Hunt had been to apologise the day after for the incident.

However, no local hunts admitted responsibility for the incident.

The Beaufort Hunt, the Cotswold Hunt and the RAC Beagles all said they had not been hunting on that day. The Vale of the White Horse had met that day but denied knowledge of the incident. A spokesman said it sounded like a “terrible accident”.

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Police said it was under investigation but also refused to confirm which hunt was involved.

The story prompted a furious backlash from online readers although many wrote to say it was simply an accident.

The story was posted on the Standard website late last week and readers responded with a flood of comments, all displaying different views.

First to comment on the story, Standard reader Bazzap said: “This is not just very sad, but outrageous and disgraceful. All those responsible should be prosecuted.”

Yet one reader described the incident as little more than an “accident” but was then met with a wave of disagreement as his comment received 71 ‘dislikes’.

“Accidents will happen, that’s why they are called accidents,” said Standard reader Nebcop. “Clearly the hounds found the scent of a fox and went away from the hunt staff otherwise the huntsman would have stopped them.”

One user, Foxhuntingisillegal, went as far to call the huntsmen “monstrous sadists” and accused them of enjoying the kill of the fox.

Another reader with the online username Mbeachey said he did not understand the problem. “We live in the country, if you don’t like it move! After all hunting is natural, even foxes do it!”

The same article shared on Facebook attracted even more attention with nearly 100 comments added to the post in a matter of days. Many comments described the incident as “barbaric”, “wrong” and “disgusting”. But others took a different view as one Facebook user said that it was “just nature” and compared the incident to when a fox kills a chicken and abandons its body.