It isn't fox hunting.

But hunting rabbits, in special dress, following a pack of howling basset hounds, isn't exactly a pastime of the masses.

It has, however, stirred controversy on the Web after a recent raid on the quarters of Murder Hill Bassets in Roxborough, home to nearly two dozen bassets used in foot pursuit of cottontail rabbits on privately owned land.

The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said on its Web site yesterday that late last month its agents visited the property on Hagys Mill Road where Wendy Willard lived with 23 bassets.

A PSPCA agent said they went in response to noise and odor complaints, and obtained warrants when they couldn't get in.

Willard surrendered 11 of the dogs after the July 27 raid, said George Bengal, chief investigator of animal cruelty complaints for the PSPCA.

A long-standing Philadelphia statute forbids keeping more than 12 animals per household.

Although the PSPCA contended complainants drew them to the Hagys Mill property, critics charged that the animals were taken because many in the animal-rescue field frown on hunting.

Many basset clubs hunt rabbits, not to kill them but to test the dogs' skills.

Willard didn't want to talk about her troubles yesterday, but she did say that three of the animals surrendered actually belonged to a New York woman who has been unsuccessful in learning where the PSPCA placed them.

"They are my family," a distraught Willard said of her dogs.

"The sort of people who go in for basseting are typically well-educated, upper-middle-class animal-lovers of a preparatory school sort of background," one online critic of the PSPCA raid wrote.

"In other words, the very last sort of people imaginable to be dog-abusers or lawbreakers."

Critics said they were angry that repeated efforts had failed to find out where the surrendered bassets had been taken.

Bengal said the dogs were with Basset Hound Rescue.