The problem of hare coursing

Hare coursing

Hare coursing – an illegal activity where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares – not only is cruel to wild animals and often the dogs as well, but according to gov.uk “it is also associated with a range of other criminal activities, including theft, criminal damage, violence and intimidation”. New legislation was introduced on 1 August 2022 to make it a punishable offence by an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison.

The hare coursing season begins as soon as the crops are harvested and trails off as the new crop emerges in the spring. It usually happens on wide, flat fields where the chase can be easily followed by vehicle.

According to Neighbourhood Watch it is typically carried out by large groups of people who travel long distances in often stolen or unregistered cars to gain access to suitable land.

This report from Leicestershire claims that international betting syndicates are behind this sport where people in 4 x 4 vehicles ride roughshod over a farmer’s land in order to film the dogs chasing and ripping apart the hare.

How to spot hare coursing

This article on countrysider.co.uk summarises what to look out for:

  • Groups of vehicles parked in a rural area eg. by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridle path
  • Racing dogs and sighthounds like lurchers, whippets and greyhounds
  • Vehicles travelling in convoy, with vans at the front and rear containing minders
  • People using binoculars to spot hares
  • People walking the edge of a field to frighten a hare into the open

What to do if you witness hare coursing

Important advice from the NFU on what to do if you witness hare coursing:
  • If it is a ‘live’ incident always dial 999, otherwise dial 101.
  • Find out if you have a dedicated rural crime officer with a direct contact number.
  • Make sure you clearly state ‘hare coursing’ to ensure that the incident is recorded correctly.
  • Have field grid references ready – these will ensure police can locate you quickly. Find out how what3words can provide accurate locations for use in these situations.
  • If possible provide a description of the person including notable features, and also descriptions of any vehicles including number plates and any distinguishing features.
  • Be discreet when collecting evidence. Approaching hare coursers whilst holding a camera may be inflammatory. If you use a dashcam you may want to pass any footage to the police as evidence.
  • Ensure that you receive and make note of your crime reference number.
  • Join your local countryside watch if available to gain forewarning of coursers in the area.
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