Backers from Midhurst ride to rescue of bloodhound pack

A flood of offers has turned the tide for a pack of bloodhounds which was due to be disbanded.

Within four hours of a dire warning from Jeremy Whaley, master of the South Downs Bloodhounds Hunt, that it was on the brink of closing down and its 26 hounds were up for sale, there was a huge response from its supporters.

Mr Whaley said: "I received offers of support and financial help to keep the hounds going, and it has changed the situation completely. We are definitely safe for another season.

"It is all a bit overwhelming, but there seems to be a real desire to keep this hunt going.

"We are going to have some meetings over the next few weeks to organise a fundraising committee.

"What we have lacked is fundraising, which every hunt has to have."

The hunt, which is based near Petersfield and has a number of supporters from the Midhurst and Petworth area, was started three

years ago by Mr Whaley, a former master and huntsman of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray fox hunt.

He said the 2007-08 season had been the bloodhounds' best yet, but the hunt was not financially sustainable.

A deficit of 5,000 was estimated between now and the start of next season.

In an email flagging up the crisis, Mr Whaley had written: "The problem is that time is short and we are due to pay the first one-third instalment of 1,000 for rent for the kennels for the 2008-2009 season,

on May 1.

"On top of this, I will have to purchase another month's feed for the hounds.

"While I think it would be possible to meet this, the balance of hunt funds would be zero and we would be living on hope.

"It would be irresponsible of me to keep the hounds on and face the possibility of not being able to feed them in a month's time.

"Over the past three years, I have personally met the difference between what the hunt earns and what the hunt costs to run.

"Unfortunately, I no longer have the means to continue giving that level of support.

"I am very sad about this, as hunting – and more importantly the hounds – have been my life, second only to my children.#

"I have therefore decided that, barring any last-minute rescue plan put together by supporters of the hunt, I will proceed on the basis that the hounds will have to be sold or otherwise re-homed by April 30."

Mr Whaley added he was happy to continue working for the hunt unpaid, if some way could be found to meet its running costs.

Bloodhound packs hunt the trail of human quarries. The sport is known as 'hunting the clean boot'.

The Southdowns pack attracted mounted fields of up to 30 followers during last season.