POLICE have launched an investigation after a pack of hounds allegedly cornered and killed a fox in a domestic garden.

They are also looking at claims that a pet rabbits and cats were also attacked.

Police officers recovered the mutilated body of a fox in a rear garden of a house in Bath Road, Sturminster Newton, last Tuesday at 4.10pm.

PC Paul Hollick, of Sturminster Newton police, said: "Alarmed home owners have told us that a number of hunting hounds chased a fox through several private gardens.

"Apparently the hounds cornered the fox against a fence before one resident tried to beat back the hounds - fearing that a pet cat had also been caught by the hounds.

"We've been speaking with residents and some have reported that domestic rabbits and cats were also attacked by the hounds. We're making further enquiries about these reports.

"On February 20 we took a number of calls from the public with concerns about the activities of a hunt, and it's important that I hear from anyone else who witnessed any incident involving a hunt in the Sturminster Newton area that day."

Hunting foxes with hounds has been illegal since 2005, although dogs can be used to follow a scent and flush out a fox.

PC Hollick said: "Fox hunting is a very emotive issue and opinions are greatly divided in the local community - that's why it's important that I hear from anyone else with any other information that will help my investigation into what happened on that day.

"I'm carrying out a thorough and diligent investigation into the circumstances of these incidents and if it becomes apparent that any offences have been committed then they will be pursued."

Anyone with information is asked to call Dorset Police on 01202 222222 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.