A FORRES man is warning pet owners living around the Knockomie Rise development to watch out for their animals after his cat suffered a horrific death when it became caught in a snare near the family home. David Powney lives with his wife Carol and their two children at Balnageith Rise. The family were shocked and angry after the family’s 13-year-old pet cat, Scully was found dead, hanging from a snare which had been set on a fence within view of his house, two days after she went missing.

“I would like to bring people’s attention to the risk posed to domestic pets in and around Knockomie and West Forres, by the use of snares,” he said.

He explained that the cat had gone out on Saturday, December 9, and was found on the Monday.

“I had the unenviable task of finding and removing my young daughter’s pet cat, which was found dead, strangled and hanging in a rabbit snare, set on a fence only 50 metres from my house,” said Mr Powney.

He added that snares were thin wire garrottes commonly used by gamekeepers to catch the foxes that were naturally drawn to the artificially elevated numbers of game birds in the nearby shooting estates. He said that they were also set by poachers to catch rabbits, gamebirds and even deer.

“The worst thing was that we could see it from the garden,” said Mrs Powney. “My daughter was absolutely devastated when she found out. We only lost our dog in October, so this was just awful for her to cope with.”

Some types of snares are still legal in the UK, but the law in Scotland states that snares must be checked every 24 hours.

However, he claimed most poachers didn’t bother, with the result that some animals were left for long periods after being trapped, suffering and in pain.

“These crude devices are totally indiscriminate, and can inflict terrible injury and suffering,” said Mr Powney. “They pose a considerable risk to unsuspecting cats and dogs which are in the wrong place at the wrong time, even in urban areas.”

Mr Powney reported the incident to Forres police, and although they were helpful, wildlife officer Mike Middlehurst told him that the “free-running snare” was legal, which prompted him to find out more about them.

“I think this snare was probably set by a poacher, as it was professionally done,” he said. “It was on a wire fence in the field behind our rear garden. It was set near to an opening under the fence, which would be used by pheasants and other animals to gain easy entry into the field. As it was set on a fence line, it allowed the cat to try to escape by attempting to climb or jump the fence, and ultimately hanging itself.”

He is concerned that any missing pets in the area might have fallen victim to the same trap, which he said could cause a nasty injury to a child, if they got their hand or foot caught in it.

PC Middlehurst said he was sorry to hear about the family’s cat, and said that although he was not aware of this latest incident, he had investigated a previous “snaring incident” around the Pilmuir Road area.

“Snares are still legal if they are free-running and placed in positions for the target species and checked once every 24 hours,” he said.

He added that as the targets of snares are usually animals such as rabbits and foxes, he would question as “dubious” the use of snares near a residential area.

As well as urging members of the public to watch out for the snares The Powney family are appealing to the better nature of those who set snares by asking them not to put them by housing developments for obvious reasons.

“I implore the people who must use these cruel devices, at least to use common sense in where they locate them,” he said. “Setting them in fields adjoining large housing developments where there are a high number of domestic pets and children in the vicinity is both foolhardy and dangerous.”

Meanwhile, local pet shop owner Pearl Hamilton said she was keen to warn pet owners that there were snares around in Forres and was putting up warning posters in her shop after speaking to the family about what happened.

“Pet owners should exercise some caution if there are snares about,” she said. “Having said that, cats will go in during the day just the same as at night, so keeping animals in at night won’t make a difference.

“It’s a brutal way for an animal to die, and in this case it sounds like it was someone who knew what they were doing who set it.”

Mr Powney is urging people to sign up to a petition which is being run by the League against Cruel Sports, who are trying to get the snares banned. In 2003 the League campaigned to ban the manufacture, sale and use of snares throughout Scotland by sponsoring amendments to the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act. An insufficient number of votes for the Act meant that it failed to provide for a total ban on snares.

However, it contains a number of measures that tighten the regulations when using snares, including checking them every 24 hours after being set. It also creates new offences of possessing a self-locking snare without reasonable excuse, and two new offences of being in possession of a snare on any land, and of setting a snare on any land, where the permission of the owner or occupier of that land has not been obtained.