Proposals to tighten the Scottish Parliament's law against hunting with dogs have been put to the Scottish Government by Lord Bonomy, the retired judge appointed to review the legislation.

Lord Bonomy was asked to review the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 last December, against continuing criticism that the Act was failing to achieve its purpose of ensuring the humane killing of foxes by being shot rather than caught by dogs. More recently Police Scotland have described the Act as "unworkable", and allegations have been made that a fox found in Lanarkshire had clearly been killed by dogs.

Asked to consider whether the Act was providing a sufficient level of protection for wild mammals, while at the same time allowing effective and humane control of wild mammals, Lord Bonomy reports that the question became more specifically "whether the Act has resulted in the elimination so far as possible of the chase and kill by hounds or other dogs of traditional foxhunting, while allowing effective and humane control of foxes by flushing to guns by a pack of hounds or an unspecified number of dogs".

He continues: "To neither part of the question is it possible to give a clear yes/no answer. There are reasons to be concerned in relation to both aspects. On the other hand, revising and amending the terms of the Act, and introducing measures aimed at making the actions of hunts more transparent and accountable, could over time lead to a situation where a positive answer can be given to both."

The report calls for:

  • clarification of the language of the Act to make enforcement easier, with the offence being committed "intentionally or recklessly";
  • consideration of the appointment of part-time, independent hunt monitors to observe the activities of hunts on a random basis;
  • notification to the police of certain details in advance of a hunt, and confirmation of the outcome when a hunt has concluded;
  • a code of practice for the conduct of hunt activities;
  • consideration of whether vicarious liability is appropriate if an offence is committed; and
  • consideration of extending the time limit for bringing prosecutions under the Act.

Accepting the report, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham commented:

“I’d like to thank Lord Bonomy and his team for examining this legislation. I’d also like to extend thanks to all of those who participated in providing information to allow the report to be put together for our consideration.

“The Scottish Government recognised concerns about whether the legislation on foxhunting is working properly – that is why we asked Lord Bonomy to carry out this detailed work. Back in 2002, Scotland led the way in addressing animal welfare concerns and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of welfare for our wild animals.

“We will now carefully consider the findings, with a view to responding in 2017. Any ensuing proposals for legislative change will be subject to the proper consultation processes.”

Click here to view the report.