Tough new measures to tackle the cruel practice of hare coursing come into force on 1 August 2022. Anyone caught hare coursing will now face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.
Hare coursing - an illegal activity where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares – is a serious problem in rural areas like North East Bedfordshire. Not only does it involve cruelty to wild animals, it is also associated with a range of other criminal activities, including theft, criminal damage, violence and intimidation.
Brown hares are widespread across the UK but numbers are declining and are now estimated at less than half a million in England.
Richard Fuller MP, who introduced a Private Members' Bill (PMB) on Hare Coursing to tackle the cruel practice of chasing hares with dogs said:
I am delighted that the changes to the laws on hare coursing that myself and many others fought for are now in force.
My Private Member's Bill sought to give the police more powers to prosecute offenders and also to make the penalties far more severe for those committing this barbaric practice. I am very pleased that the government adopted the proposals in full by incorporating them into the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which is now in force. This legislation achieves the goals in my PMB and I look forward to seeing successful prosecutions in the weeks and months ahead
These new measures strengthen law enforcement for hare coursing by increasing the maximum penalties for convictions under existing legislation, introducing new criminal offences and new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs. They include:
- Increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine and introducing the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
- Two new criminal offences: trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare. Both are punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
- New powers for the courts to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence.
- New powers for the courts to make an order, on conviction, disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.