Use of dogs to control foxes and other wild mammals: consultation

A consultation on proposals to strengthen the law relating to the use of dogs to hunt and flush foxes and other wild mammals in Scotland.

Review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002

Ongoing concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation, and about the use of packs of dogs to flush foxes, led the Scottish Government to appoint Lord Bonomy to undertake a review of the operation of the legislation. The report was published in November 2016.

The review came to two main conclusions; first, that 'there are aspects and features of the legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences' under the 2002 Act; and, second, that there are reasons to believe 'there may be occasions when hunting, which does not fall within one of the exceptions, does take place and that the grounds for that suspicion should be addressed'.

Among the proposals in the review were that:

  • The language of the 2002 Act should be reviewed with a view to removing inconsistencies in language and introducing greater consistency and clarity of expression (including specific changes recommended to the wording of section 1 of the 2002 Act)
  • Consideration should be given to appointing part-time independent monitors to observe, on a random basis, the activities of hunts using packs of hounds
  • The existing Scottish Mounted Foxhound Packs Fox Control Protocol should be used as the starting point to develop a separate code of practice for the conduct of hunt activities
  • Consideration should be given to introducing the concept of 'vicarious liability' into the legislation – this would allow for the prosecution of landowners who have permitted a hunt to take place on their land if someone involved in that hunt commits an offence
  • Consideration should be given to providing that the onus of establishing that an activity falls within one of the exceptions detailed in the 2002 Act should lie upon the person accused of an offence
  • The time limit for bringing prosecutions under the 2002 Act should be extended.

Lord Bonomy's report is available on the Scottish Government website.

Following publication of the review report, the Scottish Government committed to:

(i) working with key stakeholders to develop a code of practice for hunts and exploring the potential for a new monitoring scheme, and

(ii) consulting the public regarding Lord Bonomy's other recommendations.

The public consultation on Lord Bonomy's suggested reforms to the 2002 Act took place between 6 October 2017 and 31 January 2018, and received 18,792 responses. These included 295 'substantive' (i.e. personalised) submissions and 18,497 responses submitted through five different campaigns. The consultation and analysis of the responses can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Alison Johnstone, MSP consultation

On 24 June 2019, Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green Party MSP, launched a consultation on her potential member's bill[2] in which she proposed a number of amendments to the 2002 Act. The key proposals were:

"ending the use of dogs in flushing and hunting wild mammals, including foxes and hares"

"establishing that Red Fox, Brown Hare and Mountain Hare are all protected, and that any killing may be carried out only under licence"

Ms. Johnstone's consultation received just under 10,000 responses. As of the date of the publication of this consultation, the analysis of the responses has not been published.

The consultation and draft proposal can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

While this document covers some of the same issues, the Scottish Government proposals for fox hunting reform, outlined on page 2, are different from those proposed by Ms. Johnstone and require separate public consultation.

This consultation is available to all members of the public, regardless of any response provided to previous consultations.



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