Farmers are being urged to sign a petition calling for stiffer sentences to deter hare coursers and poachers.
It comes amid growing concern following a reported increase in the number of hare-coursing incidents during recent months.
More than 8,000 people have already signed the petition, which calls on the government to change the law so offenders face increased sentences.
“At present, the punishment is not fit for purpose,” says the petition.
“Repeat offenders are not deterred, with the small fines handed out. Increased fines and custodial sentences are required.”
The past few weeks have seen a surge in hare-coursing incidents.
In Cambridgeshire, police apprehended five men on Tuesday 29 December for reported hare coursing in Toseland, near St Neots.
5 males located today after this Fusion(I know, what?!) was repeatedly reported hare coursing in Toseland. All 5 reported for breaching COVID, having no car tax and disposals / Community protection warnings issued. #RCAT #OpGalileo @CambsCops pic.twitter.com/W9upFS0B7L
— CambsRuralCops 🚜🚓 (@CambsRuralCops) December 29, 2020
All five men were reported for breaching Covid-19 restrictions and having no car tax.
In Norfolk, a man suspected of hare coursing received a fixed penalty notice on Saturday 2 January for breaching Covid-19 regulations near Terrington St John.
Following reports of potential Hare Coursing in the Terrington St John area yesterday. One male was issued a dispersal order for the county and a fixed penalty notice for breaching Covid-19 regulations. If you see it, report it #Team1Downham #PC425 pic.twitter.com/xcq3d0inuP
— King’s Lynn Police (@KingsLynnPolice) January 3, 2021
Meanwhile, a vehicle was seized and five people arrested on Sunday 3 January for hare coursing on Sandy Lane, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
Just arrested five for hare coursing on Sandy Lane, Melton. Vehicle seized and all been given tickets for breaching COVID regulations. Hopefully they’ll think twice about coming back to our area in future. Sgt Ryecroft
— Melton Police (@MeltonPolice) January 3, 2021
The petition was started by gamekeeper Edward Coles.
As well as animal welfare issues, it says other offences – including trespass, crop damage and dangerous driving – are involved during coursing.
Theft and criminal damage are linked, with intimidation and threats of violence commonplace, says the petition.
“Rural crime action teams are successful at apprehending offenders, but they are let down by the law and sentencing,” it adds.
“There needs to be a more of a deterrent.”
The government will respond if the petition achieves 10,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament.
The petition closes on 3 June 2021. It can be signed here.