No police action after hunting hounds were killed on busy road

Northamptonshire Police has stated that it will not prosecute members of the Pytchley with Woodland Hunt, even though three of its hounds were killed on the busy A43.

The incident took place on 19 February between Broughton and Sywell. Northants Hunt Saboteurs wrote of the police’s decision:

“We are extremely disappointed to see that Northants Police have decided to take NO FURTHER ACTION against the Pytchley Hunt after a number of their hounds were killed on the A43 back in February…
The actions of the Pytchley Hunt that day were incredibly reckless and arrogant. Not only were several of their hounds killed but this incident could have ended in the deaths of motorists too. The A43 is a very busy road which is often used by lorries as well as cars.”
Meanwhile, the police stated:

“Nine possible offences were considered against the evidence, which included interviews, witness statements and maps showing the path the hounds were supposed to be following, which did not run near to the A43.

All of this information was presented to a police decision maker, who considered each element before concluding that no further action be taken as a result of the incident.”

The police’s Rural Crime Team concluded that the dogs had run ahead, away from the artificial trail that was supposedly laid for them, after one field rider fell off a horse.

Northants Sabs said:

“Northants police have a long history of letting the Pytchley Hunt off the hook when it comes to their criminal activities. This outcome only serves to strengthen that position.”

Getting away with it

It will come as little surprise to Protect the Wild readers that the police aren’t taking action. After all, time and time again we report on incidents of hunt havoc, where hounds and riders run onto roads or railway tracks. Nothing is ever done about it.

Back in 2019, a hound from the same hunt was killed on the same road. A local news report also stated that the whipper-in was seen dragging the dead dog by her legs. Another such horrifying incident occurred just months before this latest tragedy, on 30 December 2023. Two dogs, suspected to belong to the Mid Devon Hunt, were killed after being hit by cars. One was still alive and in critical condition with a broken back when found. Another was found lying dead at the side of the road.
As far as Protect the Wild is aware, no hunts have been prosecuted in England or Wales for causing road havoc since the Hunting Act came into force, despite incidents of hounds on the road being documented and reported to the police numerous times. In December 2022, the Warwickshire Hunt was issued with a Community Protection Notice (CPN) – which is similar to an ASBO – for causing road chaos. But in August 2023 the police backtracked, having negotiated with the hunt to come up with a secret protocol. Fast-forward to March 2024, and it was announced that even the secret protocol had been dropped.

The law

So, why aren’t the police and the CPS doing anything to prosecute hunts like the Pytchley with Woodland? Such hunts are not only putting human lives in danger, but are also responsible for causing injuries and deaths of dogs in their care.
“A person who causes or permits a dog to be on a designated road without the dog being held on a lead is guilty of an offence.”
But that:

“subsection (1) above does not apply to dogs proved—

(a)to be kept for driving or tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business, or

(b)to have been at the material time in use under proper control for sporting purposes.”

A lawyer, writing for Wildlife Guardian, has usefully explained this wording. The lawyer wrote:

“the important wording is “at the material time in use … for sporting purposes”. This phrase is not defined, but plainly no offence is committed during a legal hunt when the hounds are making their way from one field to another via a road. But the exemption is not a blanket one. The statute does not say that hunts may take their hounds on roads whenever they wish. Rather it is a limited exception, applicable only when the hounds are being used “at the material time” for “sporting purposes”.”

So, if it is difficult to prosecute hunters under the Road Traffic Act, what about the Animal Welfare Act 2006? While we occasionally see hunters being prosecuted under this Act, it is for cruelty inflicted on terriers after the dogs are forced to do illegal terrier ‘work’ (see the prosecution of Essex and Suffolk Hunt’s ex-huntsman Sam Staniland here, or Kent Hounds’ Robert Mills and Jack Mills here). Men such as these have been charged under Section 4 of the Act – causing unnecessary suffering to an animal – and under Section 9, which places a duty of care on people to “ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals…” Under Section 9, a person should ensure that an animal under their care is “protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.”

It is unclear why the police and CPS don’t see it fit to prosecute hunters under this Act for the killing of hounds on roads.

Hunting of Mammals Bill

The more cynical among us would argue that the police aren’t taking action against hunts causing road havoc simply because they don’t want to. But whatever the reason, hunts continue to use roads with the entitled arrogance that they have always had.

The Hunting Act, with all its loopholes, has allowed them to continue business as usual since it was implemented in 2005. Until it is scrapped and replaced with better legislation, hounds will continue to be run down by cars and cause a danger to drivers.

Protect the Wild is campaigning for the Hunting of Mammals Bill to replace the Hunting Act. This legislation, commissioned by us and drafted by lawyers at Advocates for Animals, gets rid of all of the loopholes and exemptions that were inserted into the current Act. If it were passed, the Hunting of Mammals Bill would ensure that hunting with dogs would be banned forever.

The Hunting of Mammals Bill will stop hunting in its tracks, and finally give wildlife and hounds much-needed protection from illegal hunting. Please support it and help us make it law.

  • Sign our petition, calling for a proper ban on hunting, here.
  • You can read the Bill in its entirety by downloading a pdf version here.