Concerned animal welfare groups are being left to take care of ‘lost’ beagles and lurchers which had been part of either a legal hunt or, in some cases, poaching teams.
Some of the dogs abused by poaching teams are used for illegal badger baiting.
The dogs are finding their way to nearby towns and villages and, according to the rescue groups, can be difficult to re-home, especially at this time of year when charities are full with unwanted Christmas pets.
“Eventually they seem to migrate into towns, probably through hunger, with the result that almost every village seems to become home to one or sometimes more of these poor lost dogs,” said Carol Mansfield from Lily’s Dog Rescue in Co Cavan.
She said it can be more difficult to find them a new home because, “some of them can easily clear a 6ft fence. When we get a call from a concerned member of the public about a possible hunting hound, my heart drops a little.”
In Louth ISPCA inspector Fiona Squib said when they are found wandering the countryside, “usually they need feeding up”.
She said most unwanted beagles are surrendered to welfare groups but, “a couple I had last year were found in fields wandering. They were in dire need of care as they were covered in lice and needed worming as they had been scavenging”.
She’s also had to care for lurchers, “which are generally on land they should not be on because they have been used in hare hunting and badger baiting.”
She said such illegal hunting has been reported in parts of Louth, “and these groups of men, who are very abusive, have been thrown off the land. There are also poachers and if their dogs don’t keep up they are just left behind”.
A spokesperson for the Irish Hunting Association said the bond between a huntsman and his hound was very strong, and that every effort is made to find a missing hound.
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