New legislation to tackle hare coursing is helping to ‘significantly reduce’ the number of crimes in Lincolnshire, police said.
Under the measures, breaking into or being equipped to break into, with the intention of using a dog to hunt for a hare is now a criminal offence.
Supt Lee Pache said it meant officers could stop and search vehicles, impound dogs and make arrests.
He said police action also had an impact on reducing crime.
Lincolnshire is one of the areas most frequently targeted by trainees due to its flat rural areas, with December traditionally seeing the highest number of accidents.
According to the police, trainees are often involved in illegal gambling involving large sums of money and the dogs involved can be worth thousands of pounds.
In previous years, parts of Lincolnshire were described as resembling the “Wild West” after an escalation in the level of violence used by trainees.
Lincolnshire Police Chief of Specialist Operations Supt Pache said: ‘History has shown us that these are very dangerous people.
However, he said the formation of a new Rural Crime Task Force to combat criminal activity, including hare farming, coupled with the new legislation, was discouraging criminals from entering the county.
In recent weeks, Supt Pache said law enforcement has made an “unprecedented” 22 arrests and seized or recovered 32 dogs.
“As far as the specifics of the law and legislation, I actually think the new legislation is having the biggest impact,” he said.
“In the past, unless we took them [in the act] we would struggle to deal with lawbreakers,” he added.
Under the new measures, introduced in August, anyone caught running hares risks an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.
Convicted convicts may also be barred from owning or keeping dogs.
Superintendent Pache said Lincolnshire forces were also employing an intelligence-led approach and sharing intelligence with other forces.
In England, around half a million brown hares remain, but numbers are dwindling as they face threats including poaching and habitat loss.
Adam Grogan, head of wildlife at the RSPCA, described hare coursing as “a barbaric blood sport”.
“Lure gangs inflict fear and suffering on their targets – the hare – but our rescue teams have also seen many dogs, used for luring, come to our care after being injured in sport or abandoned when their owners they don’t need it anymore,” he said.
What is hare?
The coursers will walk across a field to scare the hare into the open
The dog catches the hare and kills it by “snatching” it, shaking the animal in its teeth
The dogs — usually greyhounds, lurchers or salukis — are on a leash, tucked in so it can be easily released
The dead hare is usually left in the field or thrown into a ditch
Since 2005, hare coursing has been illegal throughout the UK. The Hunting Act 2004 makes it an offense to hunt wild mammals with dogs
Source: Lincolnshire Police
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