WITH THE hunt ban planned to take effect in less than two years’ time, fears are growing that thousands of hunting hounds and other dogs will have to be destroyed. Claims by hunters that the dogs’ destruction is inevitable has gained credence after it emerged recently that over 350 hounds have been put down as a result of the foxhunting ban in Scotland.
The Scottish Countryside Alliance disclosed the scale of the dog cull caused by Lord Watson of Invergowrie's Bill designed to outlaw hunting, which became law two years ago.
It made it illegal for dogs to chase and despatch foxes, but they can still be used to flush wild mammals from cover towards waiting guns. Hounds can be used to kill a fox only if it has been wounded by gunshot.
Prior to the ban, there were about 1,100 hounds in Scotland, kennelled mainly in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
The SCA said it had been necessary to cut the number of dogs by half because of the ban, which has cost rural communities an estimated £4 million a year.
Around 200 of the hounds were drafted out to packs in England, Wales and Europe, but another 350 were culled.
The use of shotguns to control foxes in Scotland has led to the number being killed to rise from 540 per year to 900.
All 10 hunts in Scotland are still working, but their membership has fallen by about a half.
Allan Murray, the SCA director, said: "Huntsmen never like putting their animals down. It is like putting down your best friend. But in many cases they have to be destroyed, because they don't make good pets."
Meanwhile, in England, the RSPCA reacted angrily to a claim by The Express newspaper that the charity had ‘offered its services’ to put redundant foxhounds to sleep, but instead believed that the dogs could be successfully rehomed and retrained.
Becky Hawkes of the RSPCA Press Office told OUR DOGS: "The RSPCA has not offered to ‘put down’ hounds in the event of the ban - as claimed in an opinion piece run by the Daily Express on Friday. Far from it! The RSPCA is urging hunts not to slaughter their animals en
masse as is being threatened, but instead to give them a second chance at life.
"Scientific research carried out by welfare experts on behalf of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) has demonstrated that hounds can be successfully rehomed as pets or retrained to drag hunt - where an artificial scent is followed rather than a wild animal.
"The RSPCA and other members of the APGAW Working Party are not alone in this view. A MORI poll conducted this summer shows that 88% of the public wants to see the dogs given a second chance at life in the event of a ban on hunting.
"Whilst we accept that the fate of the hounds is the responsibility of their owners, we hope hunts will explore the feasible options open to them to provide a future for their hounds, rather than shooting them unnecessarily."