hare coursing

New laws targetting hare coursers will come into effect from August

New laws targetting hare coursers will come into effect from 1st August, timed to start with the next hare coursing ‘season’.


The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act brought in new laws aimed at giving police greater powers to tackle hare coursing (a wildlife crime under the Hunting Act 2004) and hare coursers. While the Act received Royal assent on 28 April, it was up in the air as to when police could use the new anti-coursing legislation. But the government announced on 21 June that it will make this possible by 1 August. The date is chosen to coincide with the start of the next coursing season.

With the new legislation, the legal system will gain a range of new powers to prevent and penalise coursers. These include potentially unlimited fines and custodial sentences, disqualification from dog ownership, vehicle forfeiture, and enabling police to recover kennelling costs from the offender.  The new powers are achieved through amendments to the Game Act 1831 and Night Poaching Act 1828.

The government will also introduce two new offences: trespassing while equipped for coursing, and trespassing with a dog intended to “search for or pursue” hares.


Chief inspector Phil Vickers of Lincolnshire Police, who heads up Operation Galileo (a national policing operation committed to combating hare coursing which has gone from strength to strength and now has 36 forces on board), told Protect the Wild that the new powers “address the weakness in the legal system of using legislation from the 1800s to tackle offences which have developed in the 21st century (eg on-line betting)”.

Operation Galileo is lead by Lincolnshire Police and involves 23 other forces. And the government has tasked Op Galileo with drawing up detailed operational guidance for how the new laws are implemented.

However, animal rights organisations have stated that the new laws don’t go far enough. Dominic Dyer, a wildlife advocate with the Born Free Foundation, said:

“The Government is right to crack down on this illegal activity, but it needs to go further when it comes to protecting hares by also strengthening the Hunting Act to prevent the illegal killing of hares by packs of dogs and by introducing a closed season for the shooting of hares in England, to prevent them being killed during their breeding season.”