DOG walkers in the Pitney area, Somerset, are being warned to be on their guard after a family pet got trapped in a snare.

The trap, used to catch vermin such as foxes, pulled so tight round the dog’s throat that owners Phil and Jo Hillard could barely hear it whimpering.

Mrs Hillard was walking their pet Patterdale/Staffordshire Terrier Cross, when she lost sight of her for a few moments.

Usually the five-year-old dog, called Mae, returns when called but it was more than an hour before the couple found her in a hedge off Marsh Lane with the snare round her neck. The more she had struggled, the tighter the snare’s grip had got.

Mrs Hillard, aged 52, said: “She is usually a few feet in front of me, but had got behind me then disappeared.

“It was upsetting because I could not see or hear her. I eventually heard her whimper and she was in the hedge.

“We are very relieved that she is fine and I will make sure I keep my eye on her now.”

The pair had gone on their usual walk around the area on Wednesday 25 February at about 3.30pm when Mae went missing.

After searching for about an hour, Mrs Hillard returned home and got her husband to help continue the frantic quest.

Fabricator Mr Hillard, 51, said Mae, whom they had obtained from a pet refuge, had never gone missing before.

He said: “I want to alert people to the dangers they might face when they are out and about.

“We had both searched the adjoining fields and hedgerows calling and whistling but could see no sign of her.

“We searched for a number of hours and eventually, as it was getting dark, Jo heard the tiniest whimper and rustle from deep inside the hedge next to the road they had been walking along.

“We rushed over and looked inside and there was Mae, trapped with a metal snare, used to catch foxes, pulled tight around her neck. She had been panicking and struggling to pull herself out.

“It was so tight that she had been unable to manage a bark or louder noise to alert us of her whereabouts.

“Luckily for us, Mae was only shaken and extremely scared but otherwise uninjured. However, had we not been able to find her and a few more hours passed, I am certain that it would have been an all together much unhappier ending.”

The couple said they reported the incident to the police, Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs and RSPCA as well as putting posters up in the village warning of the possible dangers.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “The RSPCA is opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all snares and any trap which causes suffering.

“Even though some snares are legal and some are not, in reality they can all inflict suffering at random on a wide variety of animals.

“Snares can cause a huge amount of pain and distress and can be fatal and people need to be aware that they leave themselves open to prosecution if they are using illegal traps or not setting them correctly.

“Using a self-locking snare, failing to inspect snares that are set, or setting snares purposefully to cause injury to any animal, is a criminal offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, and carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine or a maximum of six months’ imprisonment.”