Ms Harper has been clear that protecting foxes, hares and other wild mammals from being chased and killed by packs of dogs is the purpose of the Scottish Government’s proposed Hunting with Dogs Bill. The Bill will replace existing legislation in this area, making the law clearer including closing legislative loopholes.
The South Scotland MSP recognised that there is a need for predators – such as foxes – to be controlled in certain circumstances, and she therefore welcomed that the new Bill will allow dogs to be used to search for, stalk or flush a wild mammal, but only for specified purposes and if the activity meets the requirements in the Bill. These purposes include preventing serious damage to livestock, timber or crops, protecting human health and preventing the spread of disease.
Under the Bill, proposals are that certain conditions must also be met when using dogs for the permitted purposes. The initial proposals at Stage 1 introduction of the Bill, include using no more than two dogs unless a licence has been granted, maintaining control of any dog used, and obtaining permission from the land owner when using land.
Ms Harper was also clear that the Bill is at a very early stage – Stage 1 – of the Parliamentary process and that it would still be subject to scrutiny by a committee of the Scottish Parliament who will take evidence from expert witnesses. The Bill will also be subject to amendment by MSPs.
Commenting, Ms Harper said:
“I have been contacted by many constituents over the last couple of weeks about the Scottish Government’s proposed Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill and I wanted to help alleviate any concerns constituents may have and provide clear information on the purpose of the Bill. I also want to make clear that the Bill is only at Stage 1 of the parliamentary process and will therefore be subject to scrutiny by a committee of the Parliament who will hear from expert witnesses about its provisions.
“Many people who have contacted me have stated that the Bill will make chasing and killing a mammal with a dog, for sport or otherwise, illegal. However, this has been illegal for twenty years. This Bill seeks to close loopholes which have allowed that already illegal activity to persist, and the Scottish Government’s aim is to do this in a way which ensures the greatest possible animal welfare, while facilitating legitimate predator control.
“As a rural MSP and as someone who grew up on a farm, I know that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, particularly lambs during lambing time, as well as other wildlife such as ground nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to control measures that are efficient and humane. This proposed legislation provides this. Indeed, the Scottish Government consulted widely on the Bill and the public consultation received over 11,000 responses from a range of organisations and groups, as well as individual members of the public. The majority of respondents were in favour of the Bill.
“I would be happy to discuss the Bill with any constituent and I will continue to respond to all constituents’ emails regarding it.