Gone to the dogs

Concern over fate of hunting dogs if hunting is banned in UK

source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend May 11 2002 p71

There is concern about the fate of hunting dogs if the government bans hunting throughout the UK., where there are some 20,000 pack hounds, bassets, beagles, harriers, and above all foxhounds. The RSPCA argues that hunts should control breeding, in case a ban comes into effect, while Vets for Hunting, a pro-hunting organization, foresees a ‘wholesale slaughter’. The RSPCA favours drag hunting, but hunts tend to oppose this.

A ban on hunting will be effective in Scotland from Aug 2002, and there are around 800 working hunting dogs in Scotland. Hunters claim that supporters of foxes will force them to kill their dogs. The SSPCA argues that hunts should take responsibility for their dogs, and it will only take on hunting dogs in an emergency.

The League Against Cruel Sports argues that dogs can suffer during hunts, for example being hurt on roads, or electrocuted when they cross railway lines. The Countryside Alliance claims that hunts aim to avoid such accidents. The Countryside Alliance’s own figures also give an estimate of some 3,000 hounds put down prematurely every year, and a spokesman states that hounds are kept while they are active and happy in a pack. Some older dogs can mentor young pups, but it is common for a dog to be put down following a six or seven year career as a hunter, according to a government inquiry.

Rehoming hounds has been debated. The National Canine Defence League is unsure whether foxhounds, used to living as packs in kennels and not housetrained, can become pets, though there have been successes with beagles. The League Against Cruel Sports does, however, see a future for foxhounds as pets, if owners can be found with enough patience and space. Even so, 20,000 hounds are a lot to rehome.