Hospice patients were left distressed and police were forced to stop traffic as out-of-control hunting dogs ran amok.
The hounds caused chaos when they strayed from their trail onto a hospice’s grounds during the Braes of Derwent Hunt in County Durham.
Organisers were forced to apologise to Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester but claimed the dogs, which were filmed nearly being hit by traffic as they ran across roads, had been disrupted by anti-hunt saboteurs.
But relatives of residents at the hospice criticised Monday’s bank holiday hunt on Facebook, while campaigners branded the intrusion “disgusting”.
A spokesperson for the hospice told the Newcastle Chronicle : “We have been made aware of a recent hunt which made its way onto the land which is occupied by Willow Burn Hospice.
“This not only distressed our service users and staff but has caused distress within the community. Willow Burn Hospice is taking action to minimise the risk of this happening again.”
Denise Knott wrote: “I cannot say how much this has upset me! I’ve never thought the hunts had any respect for anyone else, but this is really low.
“My own experience of being with my mother throughout her last days in a hospice showed me just how needed these facilities are. Their peaceful surroundings are so very precious and treasured by all who use them.”
Durham Police have spoken to the hospice manager and said officers give advice to the hunt’s organisers.
Bill Gascoigne, chairman and joint master of hunt, said: “It is true that six hounds did go through the property.
“Our kennel huntsman went up to apologise to the staff at the hospice yesterday and there was no damage done.
“We’ve actually agreed to take the hounds up for a visit to the patients sometime.”
Video footage captured by anti-hunting groups on the day show chaotic scenes with hounds running into traffic, narrowly avoiding being hit.
Mr Gascoigne blamed anti-hunt campaigners and said they the dogs were disrupted from their trail by saboteurs.
He added that the hunt was a trail hunt with 75 riders and acted completely within the law.
Since fox hunting was banned in 2005, most hunts involve dogs following an artificially laid scent followed by hunters on horseback who are challenged to keep up with the pack.
“I do believe in hunting but we cannot hunt under the current law and we stick to the law,” he said.
“As much as we hope the law will be changed we operate within the realms of the law at the moment.”
He claimed the debate around hunting had become a ‘class war’ but that hunting was becoming more popular with hundreds turning out at Corbridge to see them off on Boxing Day.
“It’s a perceived class war.
“People think if we have a horse we must be toffs while we think they’re all layabouts and of course they’re probably not.”
Anti-hunting campaign group Hunt Monitors, which shot the footage, said: “For the hunt to allow hounds to enter the grounds of a hospice where terminally ill people are resting is disgusting.
“They have no respect private property and the hunts master should give a full apology to the staff and residence of the hospice with assurance that it will not happen again in future hunts in the area.
“Many hunts get away with such behaviour and it’s time the public was made aware of their deplorable activities.”
Police have confirmed they had to stop traffic while the hunt participants rounded up the dogs.
Inspector Keith Wardle said: “We are planning to speak to the hunt to offer some words of advice for next year.
“Officers attended on the day purely because at one point the hounds were in the road. A police vehicle was used to stop the traffic until the hunt regained control of the dogs.”