Calls to finally ‘condemn hare coursing to the history books’ as new statistics reveal Cambridgeshire police were called to over 830 cases in just four months
PUBLISHED: 15:54 24 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:21 24 February 2017
Cambridgeshire police are being forced to deal with an average of seven hare coursing incidents a day, statistics have revealed.
Over 830 cases of the illegal sport that has blighted the county were reported between October 2016 and January this year – a rise of over 100 from the same period the previous year – and calls have been made for the police come down harder on hare coursers as the issue nears epidemic proportions.
Currently, the punishment for those caught coursing is a fine and some offenders have even had their car crushed, but Stefan Gidlow, the Cambridgeshire Countryside Watch regional officer for Fenland, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough, has called for a stricter crackdown.
“As much as the police are trying, we’ve not had many go through the courts yet,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see what messages they hand out. Police are trying as hard as they can but there’s no deterrent.
“These people travel a long way to do it and I think a £250 fine is not enough to deter them. Even taking their cars off them – which must be worth about £500 – and the court saying they will be crushed is not much of a deterrent.”
Five dogs and 31 vehicles were seized as 73 people were reported for coursing offences between October 2016 and January this year, with the majority of those coming in Fenland as the flat landscape is considered to be the perfect environment for the sport.
A typical chase lasts for up to an hour, as coursers place bets on which of two dogs taken will be quickest to catch and turn the hare.
Coursers claim that the hares are killed instantly after being caught, but many are violently ripped apart, and it is this that has prompted the League Against Cruel Sports’ campaign to see it wiped out permanently.
“If the increase in reports of this sort of hare coursing means that it is thriving in Cambridgeshire, then this is very worrying,” said a spokesman.
“Both hare coursing and hare poaching are deliberately cruel and we want to see both condemned to the history books.
“Both involve setting dogs on hares, but one is for fun and the other is food or profit. Either way, the hare will suffer, and both are illegal.
“Vigilance to ensure hare persecution doesn’t become a regular sight in the countryside is essential.”
The police re-launched the Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) – a group of officer dedicated to fighting hare coursing and rural theft - in April last year.
Chief Inspector James Sutherland said: “Tackling hare coursing is a priority for the Rural Crime Action Team. It can damage crops, harm animal welfare and threaten the rural economy. At times it is also linked to threatening behaviour and even violence.
“Officers have off-road vehicles at their disposal and air support from the police helicopter. We have been using dispersal powers and will continue to seek to prosecute coursers wherever possible.
“We want the rural community to know that we are behind them and that we are taking the issue incredibly seriously. Our goal is simple - we want to drive hare coursing out of Cambridgeshire.”