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New hare coursing law launched – what do I need to know?

PCSO Mike Storey uses binoculars to look across a field with a sign in the foreground around poaching.

The laws around hare coursing have changed. To help you understand what is new and what to look out for when reporting the crime, we sat down with the Rural Affairs Unit’s PCSO Mike Storey to find out more about the law change.

So Mike, what is hare coursing exactly?

Hare coursing is an illegal activity where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares. This is a serious problem in rural areas.

Hare coursing is primarily a seasonal issue affecting rural communities across our force area. It is most common from late summer when the crops are cut through to spring when crops are grown enough to provide hares with sufficient cover.

What is the difference between hare coursing and hunting?

Hare coursing is the specific act of chasing hares as part of an organised betting event, while hunting is the act of a person, or group of people, hunting a wild mammal with two or more dogs.

Why is it illegal?

Hare coursing was banned in 2004, but the underground scene is thriving. Not only does hare coursing involve cruelty to wild animals, but it is also linked to other criminality such as theft, criminal damage, violence, and intimidation. It can also cause significant disturbance in the countryside and is a constant cause for concern among landowners, farmers, and rural communities.

What are the main changes to the new hare coursing law?

The main change is the sentencing and the financial penalties that the courts can impose on offenders.

If I see someone committing the crime, what should I do?

We urge members of the public to report any incidents of course and poaching. If the crime is ongoing, call 999. If you are suspicious of an individual who you believe may be linked to hare coursing, or the crime is not ongoing, please call 101 or report through our online form on our website.

You can also pass on important intelligence anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This will then be picked up by our Rural Affairs Unit to handle enquiries and, hopefully, bring offenders to justice.

What else can I do?

Do not approach those taking part in the activity. Instead, please try to obtain as much of the information as possible, including:

  • Location – consider using What3Words to provide officers with a specific location.
  • Vehicles involved – what colour or type of vehicles can you see related to the crime? Are there any significant features like branding, licence plate or any dents.
  • People involved – take down descriptions or, if safe to do so, take some photos or video of the suspects.
  • Dogs or weapons involved – take descriptions of these too, including the bread of the dog and any names you may hear.

Any photos or video evidence can also be helpful to our investigation but please do not put yourself at risk.