Hunting foxes or other mammals in England using packs of hounds used to be legal. However on the 18th November 2004 the Hunting Act 2004 was passed which meant it was now ILLEGAL to hunt foxes, Deer or Hare among other mammals using dogs. This had a big knock on effect to all the registered Hunts in England & Wales which meant they had to change the way they hunted to maintain their “sport”.
Hunts are still allowed to operate and between October and March during the hunting season they can be seen weekly in the countryside. However, in order for the hunt to be legal, hunts now have to lay an artificial trail before the hunt begins using a rag or similar that is dipped or sprayed with a chemical to mimic the smell of a fox or using other liquids, some of which are probably to disturbing to write in this email. The hunt, for all purposes looks no different to how the hunts looked before the ban and will be made up of a field master (hunt master), a huntsman (in charge of the hounds) and various other hunt staff on horseback usually denoted by the coloured jackets they wear, sometimes red, blue etc. The Huntsman and whipper ins “control” the hounds using horns and calls, the hunt then follow the hounds who are supposed to pick up on the trail laid.
Hunts are only allowed to operate on land they have permission to be on, they can cross the highways to go from one field to another but this should be as least impactful to members of the public as possible.
Hunts should not be allowing the loss of control of the hounds, allowing them to enter gardens or land belonging to somebody else.
Hounds should not be allowed to follow the scent of a live mammal and if a fox or deer bolts from cover every attempt to call the hounds off of the mammal should be exercised.
So in essence, it is not illegal to see a hunt in progress, however the activity of the hunt should not impact the public much the same as any other “sport”. The hunt also needs to meet its obligations under the Hunting Act as detailed above and follow a pre laid trail.
If residents have concerns over any hunts taking place where they live and experience any anti social behaviour from the hunt, hounds out of control in gardens or the highway or out and out breaches of the Act whereby a wild mammal is purposely pursued then they are encouraged to contact the Police on 101 if it is a none emergency, or 999 if it meets the criteria.
Members of the Public are also encouraged to visit the Gloucestershire Police website and report incidents to us via the online reporting tool rather than waiting on the 101 telephone system as this can be quite a wait during peak hours.
PC 1996 Mawdsley
Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Crime Officer