A SCARBOROUGH man has been left distraught after this three terriers disappeared down a cliff-top badger sett.
Jason Ellis, 31, of Oxcliff, was walking his dogs near Scalby Beck on Saturday afternoon when they went down the hole.
The family pets – Paddy, four, Peggy, three, and Fletch, 10 months – have not been seen since, despite Mr Ellis spending hours looking for them.
He said: “In my heart they’ve gone – I’ve given up hope. I’ve had to tell my two sons that they’re not coming back.”
Mr Ellis said he wanted to dig to see if he could find them, but was told by an engineer from Scarborough Council that it could make the ground unsafe.
He said: “Natural England said they might be able to grant me a licence, but the council said it could cause a landslip.
“It the area is unstable why haven’t they put signs up? I just feel like nobody has helped me at all and they’ve condemned my dogs to a slow and painful death.”
A spokesman from Natural England said: “We were contacted on Monday and visited the site straight away with a coastal engineer from Scarborough Borough Council, with the intention of issuing an emergency licence to dig into the sett.
“In this particular case, our understanding is that an assessment by the council, who are the landowners, has raised serious safety concerns about the increased risk of land slippage in an unstable area and therefore has not granted permission for digging to take place.
“Digging into a sett is not without risks but it is important to keep in mind that most dogs emerge unscathed, and of their own accord.
“We recognise that the situation is a distressing one and hold out hope that the dogs will find their own way out in due course.”
A Scarborough Council spokesperson said: “Since being alerted to the incident by Mr Ellis we have worked closely with Natural England, RSPCA and the local badger group to look at whether there are any legal and safe ways to get the dogs out of the hole, bearing in mind that the hole has been confirmed as a badger sett and badgers have been spotted in the area by local residents.
“Due to The Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which fully protects badgers and their setts and makes it an offence to kill, injure, cruelly ill-treat or take a badger, or to interfere with a badger sett, anyone wanting to dig in an area where these are located or where evidence suggests they are present has to obtain a licence from Natural England in the first instance, and also the landowner, which in this case is the council.
“The council decided not to grant permission to dig on the basis that digging of any kind in this steep-sided area, but particularly digging to the great depths of a badger sett, could cause the slope to become unstable.
“Due to the location of houses at the top of this slope, this is not a risk we are willing to take.
“While the council is sympathetic to Mr Ellis’ problem and can completely understand how upsetting it must be for him, this is unfortunately one of those very difficult situations where it is not possible to find a positive solution for everyone concerned.”