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How to use dogs legally in the shooting of game

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How to use dogs legally in the shooting of game


Game Shooting is still legal. However, the Hunting Act means that some gamekeeping practices and the use of the dogs for beating and flushing are affected by the legislation.


To avoid malicious prosecutions you must be aware of the ambiguities in the legislation.



Driven and rough game shooting


For driven shooting it is unlikely that a prosecution would succeed as it would be clear that your intention was not to hunt wild mammals. For rough shooting the situation may be more problematic as it may be difficult to prove your intention was not to hunt a wild mammal. Either way if the activity is reported to the police, the gun will need to explain why an offence has not been committed – such as the flushing was of wild birds, and if also of wild mammals then adherence to the requirements of the Hunting Act had been complied with.


For a prosecution to succeed under the Hunting Act the court must not only have evidence that the criminal act has occurred but also that the person responsible for that criminal act intended to commit that offence. Thus while a criminal act may occur during shooting (e.g. three dogs pursuing a hare or deer), as long as you can demonstrate that your intention was not to hunt a wild mammal the prosecution is unlikely to succeed.



Rough shooting for vermin control and ground game


The rough shooting of wild mammals, for example hare or fox, may involve the use of a dog to flush or stalk a wild mammal. If the use of a dog is involved it counts as hunting not shooting and is therefore covered under the Hunting Act.


While rough shooting the danger of prosecution arises when you are in breach of the above conditions for example:


• You use more than two dogs, or


• If you are shooting with others and more than two dogs come together and they go on to flush a hare or deer. If prosecuted you would have to show that this was not your intention and every reasonable action was taken to demonstrate that this was not your intent, and that you undertook every reasonable step from preventing it from occurring, for example separating and calling back your dogs.


When shooting a wild mammal remember that:


1. Stalking or flushing can only be carried out for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage which the wild mammal would otherwise cause to:


• Livestock

• Game birds or wild birds

• Food for livestock

• Crops (including vegetables and fruit)

• Growing timber • Fisheries

• Other property

• The biological diversity of an area


Or for the purpose of:


• Obtaining meat for human or animal consumption

• Participation in a field trial


2. The person hunting must own the land or have the permission of the owner or occupier of the land


3. No more than two dogs can be used


4. No dog is used below ground


5. Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that as soon as possible after being found or flushed the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person


6. Furthermore the dogs must be under sufficiently close control so as not to obstruct the shooting


Mammals exempt from the Act


• Any number of dogs may be used (with permission of the landowner or occupier) to hunt a hare that has been shot.


• Rats and rabbits are exempt from the Hunting Act. However permission of the landowner or occupier is required to hunt them.


• Up to two dogs may be used to hunt a wild mammal that the hunter reasonably believes may be injured. Such hunting must be done with permission of the landowner or occupier, must not extend below ground and must end with appropriate action being taken to relieve the animal’s suffering. The mammal must not be injured for the purpose of allowing such hunting.

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