Hounds Off Success Stories
The first version of www.houndsoff.co.uk was launched on 30 August 2011. This is our third incarnation, launched in January 2015.
Hounds Off is a resource which:
- Offers advice and practical support to landowners who are troubled by hunt trespass.
- Provides moral support to the public and landowners who feel vulnerable because they prohibit hunting on their land: “You are not alone.”
- Seeks to create a network hunt-free wildlife sanctuaries across Britain.
- Supports the 2004 Hunting Act by reducing the amount of land where possible offences can occur.
Direct contact with the public and landowners comes via this website, social media and personal contacts. Within the first few months of existence Hounds Off achieved the following:
- 170 acres lost to North Ledbury Hunt after alpacas were attacked by hounds.
- East Studdal, near Dover, forbidden to West Street Tickham Hunt following a hunt invasion and fox killing in the village.
- At least seven properties banned to a hunt in North Dorset in an October weekend of action.
- Securing hunt-free zone for property where a pet cat was killed in December following trespass by Staintondale Hunt.
- 15 acres in Kent forbidden to Ashford Valley Hunt including woodland inhabited by foxes.
- Over 300 acres banned to hunts in Somerset and Wiltshire.
- Representation was made to Railtrack on 22 and 26 September and 17 October, following trespass by the Seavington Hunt during September.
- Disgruntled landowners were represented by Hounds Off at a meeting with Dorset Police and other NGOs on 9 February.
Supporting farmers, home owners and tenants has remained central to the work of Hounds Off until the present day. For example, in December 2014 we received an email from one of our contacts in Wiltshire. The tale he told sums up precisely the importance of Hounds Off, not only to wildlife-friendly landowners but also the creatures which sadly still suffer illegal abuse by hunts:
A Foxy Encounter in Wiltshire
“Just thought you would be pleased to know of a lovely moment following watching our local hunt run amok in fields adjacent to my small plot.
Following an incursion into this area and my adjoining garden on the previous hunt I determined to observe the hunt from the edge of my plot and if required head off the hounds before they could trespass (on a side note, judging by the chaotic manner in which they were careering backwards and forward across the fields I find it hard to believe that at any time they were following a laid trail).
Anyway to the magic moment: the hunt departed, heading away from my field and judging by the time of day I felt it would be ok to head home. Walking back along the footpath over the wall ahead of me appeared a fox, who gave me a fleeting glance and headed through the hedge and across my garden to the safety of the cover of my field.
This magic moment made my day.”
Advice on overt and covert hunt monitoring is also part of the service offered by Hounds Off. Having asked a particular hunt to stay away it is often necessary to check that these wishes are being observed. As with the Wiltshire landowner above, often people will decide to do it themselves. There is also the possibility of engaging volunteers with other NGOs who offer this service. Hounds Off has good professional contacts across the campaigning and political spectrum and is often able to assist.
For example, in 2014 Hounds Off volunteers gathered evidence on two separate occasions of a Dorset hunt trespassing on land prohibited to them. As a consequence the landowner has reinforced the no hunting status of their property. This must be monitored and enforced, so the Hounds Off/landowner partnership is ongoing.
Season 2014/15 and Beyond
Hounds Off remains relevant going in to season 2014/15 and beyond, regardless of any changing political landscapes, General Election outcome and subsequent possible repeal of the Hunting Act.
Where Hounds Off has worked closely with property owners to curb the blight of hunt trespass great progress has been made in many instances, especially when compared with previous seasons. Experience shows, however, that pressure and vigilance must be maintained because the threat of hunt trespass and intimidation remains a point of anxiety for those in vulnerable areas. Hunts themselves demonstrate by their actions time and again that they cannot be relied upon to keep their hounds under control.
The Problem of ‘Trail Hunting’
Since the Hunting Act 2004 prohibited fox and hare hunting with hounds many packs now practice a sport which never existed before called ‘Trail Hunting’. They claim that it closely mimics traditional live animal hunting by use of an artificial trail (not to be confused with Drag Hunting which has long been practiced as a legitimate cruelty-free form of hunting). Hounds Off believes that Trail Hunting is frequently a ruse designed to deceive the public and police while the unlawful pursuit of wildlife continues. Further, because wild quarry is unpredictable and does not recognise property boundaries or the difference between safe and unsafe areas, the risk of hounds running into forbidden areas (and/or out of control) remains. Hounds Off believes that incidents of trespass/hounds crossing main roads/causing havoc are clear indications in themselves that illegal hunting continues to occur.
Hounds Off remains committed to developing as a service provider, cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with allies and continuing to deliver support to farmers, home owners and tenants on all these fronts who are fed up with the aggro, hassle and cost incurred by hunt trespass.
What happens if foxhunting is made legal again?
Arguably, if repeal of the Hunting Act happened, then Hounds Off would be even more important and relevant. In such a scenario it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that many more instances of hunt trespass and havoc would occur at least in the immediate aftermath, especially given the reinvigorated euphoric high which the hunting fraternity would likely be feeling.
Everyone involved with Hounds Off is extremely grateful to all our supporters who have given financial, material or moral backing towards the success of this project to date.