Two men who used dogs to cruelly hunt wild hares given unpaid work

Steven McDonald, 38, and Richard Hanratty, 29, previously pled guilty to wildlife offences at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Two Aberdeenshire men have been sentenced to unpaid work after admitting using dogs to hunt wild hares.

Steven McDonald, 38, from Inverurie, and Richard Hanratty, 29, from Bridge of Don, previously pled guilty to wildlife offences at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Prosecutors told the court that, on August 21, 2019, McDonald allowed dogs to kill a brown hare in Mosstown Field in Udny. A witness saw two dogs chase down and kill a hare.

The hare’s body was recovered from the field by police and the gamekeeper shortly after McDonald was arrested leaving the area.

In later incidents McDonald, in a distinctive blue jacket, was filmed hare coursing at Ardconnon Farm, Oldmeldrum on February 11, 2020.

Mobile phone image of McDonald in August 2019, appearing to have been taken at Mosstown Field.

Hanratty was also captured on camera, hare coursing at Milton-croft, Dumbreck on February 16, 2021.

Using a dog to chase a hare is cruel and inhumane, the Crown said, and was made illegal in Scotland in 2002 by the passing of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act.

Those who participate in hare coursing usually do not have permission to be on the land.

When a hare runs, people carrying out the grotesque task will release their dogs to give chase – once dead, the hare’s body is simply discarded.

McDonald has been given a four-month restriction of liberty order and placed under supervision.

He has also been ordered to carry out a total of 200 hours of unpaid work, and an eight-year ban on keeping dogs.

Hanratty has been ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work, and banned from keeping dogs for three years.

The court granted the prosecutors’ motion for the forfeiture of dog collars from both men.

Fiona Caldwell, who leads on wildlife and environmental crime for the Crown said: “I welcome the conviction and sentence of Steven McDonald and Richard Hanratty and the message it should send to anyone involved in hare coursing.

“Hare coursing is a cruel and wholly illegal act. The Crown will continue to work to ensure that anyone who hunts hares with dogs is brought to justice.

“We would encourage anyone who may have information on hare coursing to contact the police.”

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