What is hunting with dogs?
The Hunting Act 2004 creates a number of offences of hunting wild mammals with dogs, with some very closely defined exemptions.
The term "hunt" means:
- to pursue and kill (a wild animal) for sport or food,
- to try to find by diligent searching and to pursue and capture,
- to pursue or approach stealthily or to move silently through,
- to drive (a bird or animal, especially a game bird) from cover.
An animal that is wild is said grow or behave without restraint or discipline. A mammal is a warm-blooded vertebrate animal that has hair or fur, secretes milk, and (typically) bears live young. Therefore a wild mammal is a warm-blooded vertebrate animal that has hair or fur, secretes milk, and (typically) bears live young and runs wild, grows or behaves without restraint or discipline. There are approximately 4,000 species which are wild mammals, such as the fox, deer, badger, rabbit, hare and mink.
Under the Hunting Act 2004, "wild mammal" includes, in particular:
- a wild mammal which has been bred or tamed for any purpose,
- a wild mammal which is in captivity or confinement,
- a wild mammal which has escaped or been released from captivity or confinement,
- any mammal which is living wild.
Under the Hunting Act 2004, it is an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs. If a person has with him or her a dog and is hunting a wild mammal he is guilty of an offence.
The Act creates five offences:
- Hunting a wild mammal with a dog,
- Permitting land to be used for hunting a wild mammal with a dog,
- Permitting a dog to be used for hunting a wild mammal,
- Participating in, attending, facilitating or permitting land to be used for the purposes of a hare-coursing event,
- Entering/permitting/handling a dog in a hare-coursing event.
A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless his hunting is exempt.
Certain forms of hunting, very closely defined in Schedule 1, are exempt, namely:
- Stalking and flushing out a wild mammal for certain purposes, with a view to its being shot forthwith, and not using more than two dogs,
- Use of not more than one dog at a time below ground in the course of stalking or flushing to protect birds for shooting,
- Hunting rats,
- Hunting rabbits,
- Retrieval of shot hares,
- Flushing a wild mammal from cover in connection with falconry,
- Recapture of accidentally escaped wild mammal,
- Rescue of wild mammal believed injured using not more than two dogs and no dog below ground,
- Observation and study of a wild mammal, using not more than two dogs and no dog below ground.
The exemption should be examined closely as it does not provide a general rule. For example, if the falconry exemption is used, the bird of prey must be capable of pursuing the wild mammal that it is flushing and only two dogs are permitted at any one time to carry out the flushing. The type of dog used is important as the dog must be able to obey strict commands and must be under the control of the handler. If the dog pursues the wild mammal at any time, this is hunting and as such the handler commits the offence under the Hunting Act.
A specific power of forfeiture is contained in Section 9 of the Act. The following can be forfeited when a person is convicted of any offence under the Act:
- any dog (but note, not horses) that was used in the commission of an offence or in the possession of the person when arrested,
- any hunting article that was used in the commission of the offence or in the possession of the person when arrested.
A hunting article is defined as any article designed or adapted for use in connection with hunting a wild mammal and any vehicle used in the commission of the offence. This could include, for example, the van or trailer used to bring the dogs to the start of the hunt.
If you believe that someone is hunting with dogs please contact the police by telephone on 101.