PRESSURE is mounting on the Scottish Government to strengthen hunting laws, amid claims that a fox was killed by dogs and “suffered a dreadful and repugnant” death.

Animal charities OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports said they were notified of the animal’s death, which is said to have happened on November 5 at Harelaw, close to Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire.

They arranged for vets to carry out an autopsy on the dead animal, which they said found “the fox had suffered severe trauma consistent with that caused by a dog or dogs”.

While the fox had been shot, the post-mortem examination is said to have concluded that it was unlikely this was the cause of death.

The charities claimed the animal had been killed by dogs from the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt, but the Countryside Alliance insisted it had been legally shot after being flushed out by dogs.

The hunt has strongly rejected any claims of wrongdoing and accused the charities of organising "a stunt" ahead of a review of the law.

Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland in 2002, with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act stating that a person who deliberately hunts a wild mammal with a dog is committing an offence.

An exception is made whereby dogs under control may be used “to flush a fox or mink from below ground or... to flush a fox from an enclosed space within rocks or other secure cover above ground’’ – a practice known as “flushing to guns’’.

Campaigners at OneKind have previously claimed that "loopholes" in the legislation mean it is not “worth the paper it is printed on’’.

OneKind director Harry Huyton said: “Despite a law which supposedly prevents foxes from suffering negative welfare impacts from hunting with hounds, this unprecedented post-mortem examination of a hunted fox makes it clear that suffering continues.” He added: “The pathology report highlights a catalogue of gruesome injuries leaving no doubt to the extent to which this animal suffered.”

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports in Scotland, called for the law to be tightened. He said: “We look forward to the Scottish Government strengthening the law to make sure that no other foxes are killed in this dreadful and repugnant way. The law was intended to put an end to the cruelty of hunting foxes with hounds, but it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if wild animals are continuing to suffer in this manner.

The Countryside Alliance said the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds operated under a “strict protocol” in accordance with the law.

A spokesman said: “In compliance with the law, the fox in question had been shot on being flushed from cover by the hounds.

“The Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds have an open and ongoing relationship with Police Scotland, one that includes the notification of their activities in advance of hunting days and a facility for direct contact with Police Scotland throughout.

“It is clear that the Lanarkshire an Renfrewshire were acting both legally and responsibly in the control of foxes. Wild and unsubstantiated claims from animal rights organisations about suffering are both predictable and ridiculous.”

Lord Bonomy is working on a review of fox hunting legislation for the Scottish Government.

A government spokeswoman said: “We’re grateful to those who made a submission to the Rt Hon Lord Bonomy’s Review.

“Scottish ministers will carefully consider his report and, as previously committed, will consult on any consequent proposals for change to the current arrangements. Lord Bonomy’s report will be published shortly.”

Mark Crichton Maitland, the chairman of the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds, said the claims from OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports were a stunt ahead of the publication of the review.