Why the Hunting with Dogs Bill is a good thing for animal welfare
On Tuesday 24 January, the Scottish Parliament passed the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill. It is not before time and all being well, it will receive Royal Assent in the next few months and become law.
In our 2021 manifesto, Better for Animals, we called for the loopholes on hunting in Scotland to be banned. Now, that looks like it will become a reality.
Why is the new Act a good thing?
Well, that’s simple – because chasing and killing wild mammals with dogs is barbaric.
The Scottish SPCA and many others in the animal welfare sector have shared concerns that the law this will replace, the Protection of Wild Mammals Act, has loopholes and was regularly exploited. This law, which was passed in 2002, allowed those hunting animals to flush out wild mammals using packs of hounds, as long as they were shot. These hunts can only be carried out for the purpose of protecting ground-nesting birds, pest control or preventing the spread of disease. Trail hunting, where a group follows an animal-based scent, has been illegal in Scotland for years. This was not banned under the previous act but will be now
The Scottish Government acknowledged in the parliamentary debate that the 2002 Act was not robust enough. The big change – and one that we have campaigned for – is a two-dog limit on packs. One of the issues with the Protection of Wild Mammals Act was that it did not limit how large a pack could be, meaning dozens of dogs could be used in a hunt. We know this has led to out-of-control groups of dogs on hunts, where wild mammals have been mauled to death as it is impossible to shoot one when it is caught by a large pack.
So, will wild mammals be hunted in Scotland now?
One of the amendments included in the Act will create a licensing scheme. The details of this scheme need to be mapped out, but we do know it will allow larger packs of dogs to be used in certain circumstances.
We will be following the development of the licensing scheme closely and hope it does not create any further loopholes.
For now, we are delighted to celebrate a big win for animal welfare in Scotland.