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Hertfordshire Police say with the harvesting period now upon us, the threat of hare coursing is looming across rural areas.
However, police officers from the Rural Operational Support Team say they are keen to let any would-be hare courses know that they do not tolerate this form of activity in Hertfordshire and will deal robustly with anyone caught or suspected to be taking part.
Hare coursing, illegal in the UK since 2005, involves the pursuit of a hare with a greyhound or other form of sight hound. If the hare is caught by a dog it is usually killed. Those involved in hare coursing often travel over many counties to meet in rural areas within Hertfordshire to carry out this activity.
Illegal gambling is usually at the heart of any hare coursing event and in some parts of the country thousands of pounds have been recovered from offenders taking part. During this pursuit, damage can be caused to fences, gates and hedges by offenders trying to gain entry onto fields and then additional damage is often caused by vehicles driving on the land over any remaining crops.
Sergeant Jamie Bartlett, who leads the Rural Operational Support Team said:
"Not only do illegal coursers and poachers trespass on private land, damage crops and property, but they also often steal property and can be abusive and intimidating to those who challenge them.
There is also the matter of animal cruelty, frequent illegal gambling, driving stolen vehicles and using red diesel.
With the new season, I would like to reassure farmers and those who live and work in rural areas that we will be putting on extra patrols in areas where hare coursing is likely to take place."
Sgt Bartlett added:
"I would also like to encourage anyone who suspects hare coursing to call us as soon as possible on the non-emergency number 101. If you witness hare coursing in progress dial 999."
Hertfordshire Police say anyone caught hare coursing could face a fine of up to £5000, disqualification from driving and even imprisonment.
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