Hare Coursing

16th October 2016
An article by Special Constable Alan Marwood, Nottinghamshire Police Rural Proactive Team

As the seasons move from Autumn to the mists and frosts of November where the icy fingers of first frost reach across the stubble fields, a new problem arises; that of hare coursing.

The Hunting Act of 2004 came into effect in Feb 2005 and made hunting of hares or any mammal by dogs or hounds illegal.

The origins of hare coursing are in Altcar in Lancashire where large gathering still occur. There is no glamour in this pastime, the dogs are set on a hare which is normally caught and torn to pieces. Large sums of money are often placed on the outcome.

The law permits a constable to enter land, vehicles, but not dwellings to search for any dogs, apparatus, vehicles connected with the activity. Vehicles can be seized and the courts may issue a forfeiture order. Therefore offenders will evade the police at all costs when they often travel to North Notts and Lincolnshire to participate in this activity.

Hare coursing is embraced in the Hunting Act where the offences fall into 5 principal headings
  • Hunting a wild mammal with a dog,
  • Permitting land to be used for hunting a wild mammal with a dog or dogs,
  • Permitting a dog to be used to hunt a wild mammal,
  • Participating, attending, facilitating or permitting land to be used for a hunting or hare coursing event,
  • Entering, permitting or handling a dog for hunting or hare coursing

Constables may arrest without warrant persons who commit these offences, either in the act of hunting, or if suspected of such involvement. If reasonable grounds are present then arrest may be necessary.

Hunting is an intentional activity and there is no defence that hunting was unintentional. This is particularly important where it is alleged that it is simply a case of dogs being let loose. A dog owner at an hunting/hare coursing event commits the offence if he/she
  • Owns,
  • Has charge,
  • Has control
of any dog involved in a hunting of any wild mammal

There are many challenges to legislation as emotive as the Hunting Act, but hare coursing has specific definitions and positive action is taken against offenders as apart from hunting offences, it is likely that illegal taking of game, firearms and other offences will come to light.

The gangs that participate in this activity are no lovers of the countryside and often trespass and cause damage to property and livestock.

If you see anything like a gathering of people on or around fields or anything else, which may indicate hare coursing please don't approach the persons. People who commit offences like hare coursing often use violence when challenged. Please ring 101 or 999 if a crime is taking place.

The poet Shelley stated 'I wish no living creature pain'. Nottinghamshire Police certainly endorses that quote from one of England's finest poets and will continue to take actions to bring offenders to justice and to work with farmers and communities to prevent hare coursing and other offences like this.