A major organisation has launched a plan to combat the menace of hare coursing across the East of England, including Lincolnshire.
The Country, Land and Business Association which represents thousands of landowners has set out a new action plan to tackle the crime.
Hare coursing, where dogs compete against each other in pursuit of a hare, was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act, but now takes place illegally without the permission of the landowner.
Those taking part in coursing are often attracted to the East of England due to the large population of brown hares. Coursers take advantage of the wide open spaces, trespassing on private land in order to set their dogs on hares – often betting thousands of pounds on the resulting chase. Lincolnshire have made a concerted effort to tackle the problem, including Operation Galileo, which has led to the arrest of several offenders.
The CLA represents farmers, landowners and rural businessmen. Many members have tackled intimidation and threats of violence when confronting horse coursers trespassing upon their land.
The actions the CLA believe are needed to tackle the crime include:
• The introduction of specific sentencing guidelines for hare coursing – currently sentences for hare coursing are issued using guidelines which are not specifically linked to hare coursing.
• The National Wildlife Crime Unit to be given sufficient resources to be able to treat hare coursing as a priority.
• Police to be able to reclaim kennelling costs of dogs from offenders – seizing the dogs involved is an effective way to prevent hare coursing.
• Additional training for police 101 call handlers so they better understand the crime – ensuring those tasked with recording incidents fully understand the crime will help police prioritise investigations.
CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “Some of the reports of hare coursing I have heard about in our region across the autumn and winter have been truly terrifying. Those that take part in hare coursing have little respect for the law or the communities they impact through this crime. “Hare coursing raises concerns about animal cruelty, damages crops and private property, and has a detrimental impact on those who live and work in rural areas.
“Fines for those caught can be incredibly low while the gambling side of the crime can generate thousands of pounds so there is no deterrent.
“By releasing our action plan now we hope that steps can be taken that will reduce the impact of this crime in future hare coursing seasons.”
A CLA member from the eastern region said: “Incidents of hare coursing on our fields and those of our neighbours have been taking place on a near daily basis for the last three or four months. We have had face-to-face conflicts with the coursers, been threatened, had property damaged and seen cars rammed.
“In our experience it is a crime that is on the increase. We have got to take a stand and find a way to combat this crime as it can have a devastating impact on those who live and work in rural communities.”
Top Tips - what to do if you see hare coursing taking place
1. Do not approach hare coursers.
2. Report any suspicious activity in the countryside to the police on 101.
3. Call 999 if you suspect a crime is actually taking place.