Hunting with dogs bill 'does not go far enough' and will 'open new loopholes'

The bill will set a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting <i>(Image: PA)</i>
The bill will set a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting (Image: PA)

A "WATERTIGHT" ban must be brought in on hunting with dogs as the Scottish Government’s bill “does not go far enough”, the Scottish Greens have said.

A final debate on the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill will take place on Tuesday before MSPs vote on whether to pass the legislation.

The legislation introduces restrictions that are intended to minimise the risk of wild animals being caught by dogs.

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It will set a two-dog limit for all use of dogs in hunting, ban trail hunting and introduce a licensing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in limited circumstances.

Trail hunting was invented in 2004 in the wake of the fox hunting ban in England and Wales.

It simulates a traditional fox hunt with hounds “hunting” a scent laid ahead of time, usually made up of fox urine. Critics say it is a “smokescreen” and often results in the chasing and killing of foxes.

The Greens have said the bill - which will replace the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 - is a “step in the right direction” but they are planning to table a series of amendments.

The National: Burgess said the current bill would not constitute a ban on fox hunting
The National: Burgess said the current bill would not constitute a ban on fox hunting

Burgess said the current bill would not constitute a ban on fox hunting (Image: Ramblers Scotland)

These will aim to:

  • Strengthen the proposed licensing system to limit the number of dogs that can be used for hunting and ensure that licence holders adhere to best practices in ethical wildlife management.

  • Ensure that enforcement officers do not have to obtain additional permissions to enter Crown land compared to their powers of entry on other land.

  • Remove the loopholes that allow the use of dogs for sport and for terrier work. This is the cruel practice of sending dogs underground to flush out foxes and can lead to orphan cubs being killed by dogs underground. 

    Ariane Burgess, the party’s rural affairs spokesperson, said she is concerned the bill will open up new loopholes despite its good intentions.

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She said: “Hunting with dogs is a cruel, outdated and totally unnecessary practice. It belongs in the past and should have ended years ago. There can be no justification for setting out with a pack of dogs to kill a defenceless animal.

“The bill is a big step in the right direction and has a lot to commend. But it does not go far enough. I am concerned that it will close some loopholes while opening new ones that will be exploited.

“I am particularly concerned about the proposed licensing system, which runs the risk of allowing the licensing and legitimisation of cruelty. That is why I will be moving amendments that would ensure a watertight ban."

Burgess said that while the 2022 Act was "important", it allow fox hunting to continue.

"We can’t have another missed opportunity," she added.

"We don’t want to be in the same position in another 20 years. It’s time to close the loopholes and end the cruelty for good."

The measures laid out by the Scottish Government are intended to provide further safeguards for wild mammals while allowing land managers access to legitimate and humane animal control measures.

Labour - who are also set to bring forward amendments - said the Scottish Government had failed to go far enough with the legislation, saying it “won’t deliver a real ban on fox hunting”.