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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Hunting with dogs

It is illegal for a person to hunt a wild mammal with a dog - although there are some exceptions to this. Wild mammals include foxes, hares and deer. Find out more about hunting, the Hunting Act 2004 and when some types of hunting are allowed.

Hunting Act 2004

Under the Hunting Act 2004, it is illegal to hunt wild mammals with a dog in England and Wales (there are some exceptions to this). 'Hunting' includes using one or more dogs to chase a wild mammal with the intention of catching or killing it.

You can find out more about why hunting is banned, controlling pests, the impact on the countryside and more, from the Defra website.


If a person is prosecuted and found guilty of an offence under the Hunting Act, they may have to pay a fine of up to £5,000. The court also has other powers, for example, it can confiscate (take away) the dog(s) or any hunting equipment used in committing the offence.

The Hunting Act also makes it an offence for someone to allow others to use their land for illegal hunting.

Examples of when hunting is allowed

Certain types of hunting are allowed but there are strict conditions applied to these exemptions.

Examples of when hunting with a dog is allowed include:

Stalking and flushing out

Up to two dogs may be used to stalk or flush out a wild mammal if it's carried out for a permitted reason. For example;

  • if it is to prevent serious damage which the wild mammal would cause to livestock or gamebirds
  • if it is to to preserve the biological diversity of an area

Hunting rats and rabbits

These can be hunted on your own land, or (with the permission of the occupier or owner) on other land.

Retrieving hares which have been shot

A dog can be used to retrieve a hare that has been shot on your own land. I can also be used to retrieve one shot (with the permission of the occupier or owner) on other land.

Rescue of wounded animals

Up to two dogs may be used to rescue a wild mammal if the hunter thinks that the wild mammal is, or may be, injured. For example, a deer that has been legally shot but only injured.

Drag hunting and trail hunting

Drag hunting is a sport using either fox hounds or bloodhounds. It involves the laying of an artificial scent which the dogs, and people on horseback who are taking part, follow.

Trail hunting is an alternative to 'live quarry' hunting. It involves laying the scent of a wild mammal (like a fox) which the dogs, and people on horseback who are taking part, follow.

If you think someone is hunting illegally

If you wish to report someone who you believe is hunting illegally, you should contact the police.

The police can arrest anybody who they reasonably suspect to be hunting illegally, or who they think are about to do so. They can stop and search people and vehicles and also take away vehicles, dogs or possessions for use as evidence in prosecutions.

Someone who lets their dog(s) chase a wild mammal while out walking in the countryside could also be prosecuted under the Hunting Act.

Additional links

Greener gardening

Go greener in your garden - from composting to better use of water

Check, clean, dry

Stop the spread of invasive species: check, clean and dry equipment on leaving the water

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