Two distraught animal lovers, who saw a dog ripping at the throat of a badger when they stumbled upon illegal baiting, have urged the public to reveal the men responsible.

Plucky Gemma Baldwin chased after the three evil badger baiters when she caught them in the act, while her friend, Zoe Atkinson, alerted the police.

The men escaped over a barbed wire fence and across a field – dragging the dog, with its jaws still clenched around the badger’s neck, with them.

Police yesterday described the incident as “senseless and vile Animal cruelty”.

Miss Baldwin, 30, and her 36-year-old friend, were walking Miss Atkinson’s pet Jack Russell terrier in woods near to Allerton, Bradford, just before midday on Sunday, when they made their grim discovery.

Miss Baldwin said: “We were walking down a track and were talking quite loudly when I heard three loud whistles, like a call to a dog.

“We came round a corner to a clearing and saw three lads running away. We noticed two animals were fighting and realised it was a dog and a badger. The dog had the badger round the neck and the badger was struggling. The men grabbed the dog, which still had hold of the badger, and dragged both of them with them, over a barbed wire fence and through the fields.

“It was really distressing. I was screaming at them to get the dog off the badger. I chased after them, but I couldn’t see which way they had gone. They didn’t turn round and confront me. They couldn’t get away fast enough.”

Miss Baldwin said the police arrived within five minutes and searched the area but the men could not be found.

She said: “The police took it very seriously and took full statements and descriptions from us.

“We were really upset about what happened and we feel very strongly that if anyone has an inkling of who is responsible, they should turn them in.

“It was unnecessary violence. It is disgusting that anyone could put an animal through the trauma that badger was suffering, just for so-called fun.”

She said the spot where the baiting was taking place was a popular place for hikers and families with children.

She described the thugs as white men aged about 20, about 5ft 10-11ins tall. One was wearing a royal blue jumper, a black padded waistcoat and a black waterproof deerstalker hat with fur trim.

They had a black and brown wire-haired large terrier dog.

Chief Inspector Suzanne Akeroyd, of Airedale and North Bradford Police, said: “Animal cruelty of this kind is a senseless, vile and particularly upsetting crime which causes as much distress to police officers as it does generally in our communities.

“In this case we received a call about an ongoing incident of badger baiting to which officers responded promptly and conducted a full search of the area for the suspects and injured animal, neither of which were still present.

“We will always investigate allegations of cruelty and will take action whenever possible, and I would encourage anyone who has information about those responsible for this offence to contact the Airedale and North Bradford Police wildlife officer, PC Richard Oddy, on the 101 non-emergency number or CrimeStoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555 111.”