Urgent clarification is needed on several areas of the Scottish Government’s bill on hunting with dogs, MSPs have said.
Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee has been scrutinising proposals which will replace the existing Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
The Hunting with Dogs Bill aims to make the law easier to understand and enforce and to close loopholes to address widespread concern that illegal hunting practices are still taking place.
It also aims to maintain the highest animal welfare standards while permitting predator control use of dogs, where there is no alternative.
Legislative plans would make it an offence to hunt wild mammals in Scotland using a dog – except in limited circumstances, including protecting livestock and crops.
Specific conditions would have to be met such as limits on the number of dogs and introducing a licensing scheme.
But the cross-party committee have said the proposed licensing scheme, which would permit the use of more than two dogs in certain situations, needs further clarification on how it would work.
And MSPs have asked for clarity on the impact of including rabbits in the wild mammal definition, and how a two-dog limit for searching, stalking or flushing mammals from cover above ground, would work in practice.
The Scottish Government has also been asked to clarify how a one-dog limit for searching or flushing foxes or mink from cover below ground would work effectively.
Clarification is also being sought on trail hunting exceptions which would allow up to two dogs to be trained to follow an animal-based scent.
Finlay Carson, committee convener, said: “The Bill aims to maintain the highest animal welfare standards whilst permitting predator control using dogs, where there is no alternative.
“But it became clear during our evidence-taking that more information is needed to address the legitimate but polarised concerns expressed by many of the stakeholders.
“It’s important that we get this right in order to close the loopholes which have made it more difficult to enforce the 2002 foxhunting ban.
“I’d like to thank all stakeholders who took the time to give evidence during our inquiry.”