For dog owners looking for their Downton Abbey moment, a group known as the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society might be just the thing, albeit with an urban flair.

Getting their “tally-ho” on through the pursuit of rats rather than foxes amid New York City’s dank back passageways, the group takes to the city streets to exercise the hunting skills for which their dogs were bred.

"It's about maintaining the breed type through actual work," says Richard Reynolds, a longtime dog breeder who is loosely considered the group’s organizer.

The group has been meeting in the streets weekly, weather permitting, for more than a decade. And although those who squeamish about rodents in the city may welcome the hunters, the goal really isn’t to rid the city of rats – it’s more about showing their dogs a good time.

And it’s a pastime that has animal rights activists up in arms. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) cried cruelty after a video of a dog hunting rats in a New York City park was posted online several years ago. PETA spokesman Martin Mersereau calls the urban rat hunts, "a twisted blood sport masquerading as rodent control."

But Reynolds defends his vermin hunts.

"There are lots of worse things that people do to rats," he says.

Here's a video of a hunt below. (Warning, footage may be offensive to rat lovers.)

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Hunting New York-style, pet owners set dogs on city rats
Swapping windbreakers for red coats and dark alleys for rolling hills, a group of dog owners chase rats for sport in the streets of New York City.