A couple whose pet cat was killed by a snare have joined calls for the traps to be banned – and have gathered a 1,000-name petition to support a national campaign.

Two-year-old ginger tom Marmalade died in a hedge near his Aylsham home that had been set to catch foxes raiding birds bred for sport shooting.

Devastated owners Ann and Chris Dunham have added their voices to a nationwide campaign to get all such snares banned.

But a national gamekeepers’ group defended their use, saying they were needed for predator control and were safe if used properly in line with a code of conduct.

After Marmalade was found dead in a snare however pensioner Mrs Dunham started a petition which was bolstered by signatures from customers on her husband’s rural milk round and at a local veterinary surgery.

“We were really upset when we wound the cat in the hedge, caught in a snare. They should be banned,” said Mr Dunham.

The League Against Cruel Sports is leading the calls for a snare and trap ban, and says its recent Snare Aware week helped raise the profile of their campaign – for an outright ban of “cruel and indiscriminate” snares – among the public and politicians.

They pointed the finger at shooting estate gamekeepers who set snares to stop foxes taking game birds, but often ended up catching badgers and deer as well as domestic animals, such as cats.

Thousands of animals suffered horrendous injuries or agonising deaths, because of traps set to protect a £1.6bn game shooting industry, it added.

There have been other cases in Norfolk of domestic animals being maimed or killed by snares or sprung traps – with recent incidents in the Stalham and Sheringham areas in the north of the county and at Thelverton in the south.

The League said investigations showed East Anglia was a hotspot of snaring and wildlife “persecution” connected to shooting estates, and the UK was one of only five EU states which still permitted the use of traps, which chief executive Douglas Batchelor were causing a “bloodbath in our countryside.”

A National Gamekeepers Organisation spokesman however said “properly conduced snaring is a necessary part of fox control.”

Snares needed to be legal ones – which did not lock and tighten around a captive animal, but held them in place to be either humanely destroyed or released by gamekeepers checking them twice a day.

If they were placed appropriately it reduced the risk of unintended captures getting harmed, he added.

Police wildlife officer PC Jason Pegden agreed that gamekeepers were generally responsible in the way they deployed snares, but said there were instances of them being used against the law and code – which people should report to the authorities.

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