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New legislation cracks down on illegal hare coursing

Tougher sentencing and improved powers to tackle hare coursing have come into force today (1st August).

Anyone caught hare coursing will now face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison, under new legislation in the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

The government has introduced new criminal offences and powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs.

It is now a criminal offence to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or chase a hare. Being equipped to trespass with this intention has also been criminalised. Both crimes are punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.

For those convicted, the courts can now order the reimbursement of costs of kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing related offence. Courts can also disqualify offenders from owning or keeping dogs.

Hare coursing is a serious problem in rural areas, involving not only cruelty to wild animals but also a host 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.

Chief inspector Phil Vickers commented: “Police colleagues have long been frustrated that hare coursing legislation did not adequately reflect the suffering of human and animals. These new powers will better equip police forces to prevent cruelty and offending, targeting those who cause the greatest harm to our rural communities and wildlife.

“These changes have been made possible through collaboration with rural police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service and government. I am grateful for the support we have received in getting to this point.”

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