The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Rural landowners are calling for specific sentencing guidelines to target criminal gangs betting on the killing of hares with dogs.

Hare coursing, where dogs compete against each other in pursuit of a hare, was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act but now takes place illegally without the permission of the landowner. It has also been reported that the crime sometimes involves live streaming to another location where bets often worth thousands of pounds are placed on the outcome.

Following numerous of incidents of hare coursing throughout autumn and winter, the CLA has updated its action plan this year which outlines how farmers, landowners, the police and Government can work collaboratively to bring those involved to justice.

The organisation is calling for tailored sentencing guidelines such as vehicle seizure and compensation paid to the landowner for any damage caused.

CLA North Adviser Libby Bateman said: “Fines imposed under the Hunting Act are unlimited, yet too often they amount to just a few hundred pounds. This is not an effective deterrent for a lucrative crime perpetrated by criminal gangs. The police are able to seize vehicles and dogs – both of which would have a direct impact on hare coursers.

“Police forces have the power to tackle these criminals but they need evidence to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice. This is why we encourage people to record and report any suspicious activity to the police. This can be done by dialling 101 to speak to your local police force or contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

A farmer, who wanted to remain anonymous due to reprisals, from the East Riding in Yorkshire, said: “Criminals involved in this illegal activity – which is banned - often threaten landowners and damage property. These criminal gangs are still travelling to our area, trespassing on private farmland to chase hares with dogs. The only way to stop these criminals is to report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Top Tips - what to do if you see hare coursing taking place 1. Do not approach hare coursers.

2. Report any suspicious activity in the countryside to the police on 101.

3. Call 999 if you suspect a crime is actually taking place.