The shooting of a dog near a Dunstable golf club has escalated into a row over fox hunting – with allegations of threats and abuse.
On February 4, a dog veered from the footpath through Dunstable Downs Golf Club and was accidentally shot by a licensed firearms user hunting foxes. When news of it was shared online, an anti-fox hunting campaign urged its members to contact Dunstable Down Golf Club.
Club manager Duncan Mutton said: “The incident has led to threatening experiences for the staff here.
“The vitriol and nastiness that has come through from the anti-fox hunt fraternity is frightening, it’s put me and my staff totally on edge.”
During the incident on February 4, Mark Cornell was walking his dog on the footpath through Dunstable Downs Golf Club, when the dog veered into an area where a licensed firearms user was hunting foxes.
The dog was accidentally shot by the hunter, who has since had permission withdrawn from shooting at the golf club.
Mr Cornell told the Gazette: “After emergency surgery to remove several shot pellets to his face, my dog is slowly recovering, but he may have to live with the remaining pellets left in him.
“I was very close to him at the time.”
Club manager Mr Mutton added: “The club did not employ anyone to shoot on the course, we’ve allowed the licenced firearms user to come and shoot vermin.”
Mr Mutton said that after the accidental shooting, the hunter apologised to Mr Cornell, who later shared news of the incident online. It was picked up by anti-fox hunting group Beds Bucks Herts Sabs, who encouraged its members to “politely” contact the club.
Mr Mutton said: “It’s been alleged that we are murderers, that we play golf in fields of blood... People are being whipped up in a frenzy.
“There is a public footpath that runs through the golf club, but he wasn’t on the footpath – he was on golf course land where there is a very big warning sign of private property.
“It’s gone from the dog being injured, to claims we’ve ‘murdered the dog’, we ‘murder foxes’, ‘what right’ have we got – but that sort of thing goes on at every golf club up and down the country.”
Dunstable Downs Golf Club is one of the town’s oldest businesses and dates back to 1906.
A spokesman for Beds Bucks Hunt Sab said: “We encouraged people to politely contact the club and voice their concerns. We have certainly not threatened the club in any way and nor did we encourage anyone else to do so.
“We cannot be held responsible for what the public have done in light of our Facebook post however we do not condone any abuse or threats.
“As non-violent guardians of wildlife we would condemn the club for acting in this cruel manner if indeed they did sanction this course of action and call into question the competence of the person carrying out the act and hope the police remove their licence to carry a firearm.”
A Beds Police spokesman said: “We are investigating reports that a dog was shot and injured while in the grounds of the Dunstable Downs golf course on Saturday 4 February. Investigations are on-going and anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference JD/5233/2017.”