Last week the Scottish Government opened a consultation on proposals to strengthen the law (Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002) relating to the use of dogs to hunt and flush foxes and other wild mammals in Scotland. Summarised details of the proposals can be found below.

RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION HERE

Our official response to each question -

Question 1 - Yes

Question 2 - No

Question 3 - 0

Question 4 - Yes

Question 5 - No

Question 6 - No

Question 7 - Rabbits included - all species of rodent included

Question 8 - No

Question 9 - No

Question 10 - None

Question 11- No - The maximum penalties on summary conviction only are a fine of up to Level 5 on the Standard Scale (£5,000) and/or 6 months imprisonment for offences relating to the deliberate hunting of a mammal with dogs. There should be efforts made to increase the penalties associated with the illegal hunting of wildlife in an attempt to deter this activity.

Question 12 - Add any further personal recommendations

RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION HERE

Consultation proposals

"As the Scottish Government has already consulted on the recommendations made by Lord Bonomy in his review of the 2002 Act, this consultation seeks views on the proposals made by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment on 9 January 2019 as they pertain to the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.

The focus of the Scottish Government's intentions in this area is to enhance animal welfare and to significantly reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by packs of hounds. It is for these reasons that the then Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, announced the following proposals in 2019."

Limit on number of dogs

Lord Bonomy noted that there were legitimate grounds for suspicion that the present arrangements were providing cover for the unlawful use of dogs, contrary to the intention of the 2002 Act, with the associated concerns about welfare of foxes and other wildlife.

Licensing use of more than two dogs

The Scottish Government is exploring the introduction of a licensing scheme that would allow the use of more than two dogs where no other method of control would be effective in the particular circumstances.

Any licensed operations would be subject to monitoring to ensure compliance with the law and with licence conditions. Licences could be withdrawn for non-compliance with monitoring or breaches of conditions.

Prevention of trail hunting

The description of trail hunting provided by Lord Bonomy in his review was;

"It is worthy of note that the way in which some mounted hunts now operate in Scotland and the practice by mounted hunts of trail hunting in England and Wales have both given rise to suspicion that organised mounted hunts have continued to hunt foxes with a pack of hounds in contravention of the legislation."

The pre-emptive action to prevent trail hunting becoming established in Scotland has been proposed by the Scottish Government to avoid it being used as a cover for illegal hunting, following the introduction of a two dog limit. This could be by banning the use of animal-based scents or any other scent that seeks to mimic the scent of wild mammals for the purpose of providing a trail for dogs to follow.

Hare-coursing

The 2002 Act prohibits the hunting of hares with dogs in Scotland (hare coursing). However, we are aware that illegal hunting continues in some parts of Scotland. As well as the welfare implications, those involved in hare coursing cause significant problems for people living in rural communities, including disturbance of livestock, damage to crops and fields and vandalism of property such as fences.

We are therefore, seeking your views on whether there are amendments we could make to strengthen the law to tackle hare-coursing.

Background info

On 9 January 2019, the then Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, gave a statement on proposals for fox hunting reform in Parliament, as part of a statement on animal health and welfare. The proposals announced by the Minister were:

  • The implementation of the majority of Lord Bonomy's recommendations[1]
  • A new limit of no more than two dogs to be used to flush foxes or other wild mammals from cover
  • Consideration of a licensing scheme permitting more than two dogs to flush foxes or other wild mammals from cover where necessary for the purposes of pest control; and
  • Provision to discourage the establishment in Scotland of the practice known as "trail hunting" as this poses significant risks for wild mammals.

In the statement, the Minister said:

"..despite the ban on hunting introduced by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, it is clear to me that there remains considerable public concern about fox hunting in Scotland and doubts about the operability of the legislation as it currently stands."

Review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002

Ongoing concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation, and about the use of packs of dogs to flush foxes, led the Scottish Government to appoint Lord Bonomy to undertake a review of the operation of the legislation. The report was published in November 2016.

The review came to two main conclusions; first, that 'there are aspects and features of the legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences' under the 2002 Act; and, second, that there are reasons to believe 'there may be occasions when hunting, which does not fall within one of the exceptions, does take place and that the grounds for that suspicion should be addressed'.

Among the proposals in the review were that:

  • The language of the 2002 Act should be reviewed with a view to removing inconsistencies in language and introducing greater consistency and clarity of expression (including specific changes recommended to the wording of section 1 of the 2002 Act)
  • Consideration should be given to appointing part-time independent monitors to observe, on a random basis, the activities of hunts using packs of hounds
  • The existing Scottish Mounted Foxhound Packs Fox Control Protocol should be used as the starting point to develop a separate code of practice for the conduct of hunt activities
  • Consideration should be given to introducing the concept of 'vicarious liability' into the legislation – this would allow for the prosecution of landowners who have permitted a hunt to take place on their land if someone involved in that hunt commits an offence
  • Consideration should be given to providing that the onus of establishing that an activity falls within one of the exceptions detailed in the 2002 Act should lie upon the person accused of an offence
  • The time limit for bringing prosecutions under the 2002 Act should be extended.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban

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