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Muzzle compromise for hare coursing?

A SUPPORTERS OF the sport of hare coursing are planning to muzzle their dogs in an attempt to head off a ban due to come into effect alongside foxhunting legislation.

Competition coursing involves the chasing of a hare by two dogs. The aim is to test the prowess and agility of the dogs, not to kill the hare.

However, the hare coursing supporters are nervous that its sport will be sacrificed. Coursing associations that represent Greyhound, Lurcher, Saluki and Deerhound clubs are seeking legal advice to see if there is any way that they can avoid a ban.

One idea is that all dogs be muzzled. The view is that this would show there was no intention to kill or harm the hare involved in the competition.

The coursing world has asked QCs how a judge would interpret the definition of the sport as set out in the Hunting Bill and if this would cover coursing with muzzled dogs. The definition in the Bill reads: "Hare coursing is a competition in which dogs are, by the use of live hares, assessed as to skill in hunting hares."

The use of muzzled dogs is already common practice in Ireland, though the races take place in enclosed areas or parks rather than the open countryside favoured by English coursers. It is possible that this form of coursing could be established in Britain.

Charles Blanning, the secretary of the National Coursing Club that supervises 23 greyhound clubs, confirmed that legal advice was being sought on whether the pursuit of a hare by muzzled dogs is a form of hunting.

The Countryside Alliance is still fighting for an independent coursing registrar, but senior figures admit privately that hare coursing may have to be sacrificed to save foxhunting.