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I write in my role as chairman of the Hunting Association of Ireland (HAI), regarding Elaine Keogh’s report, “Animal groups forced to care for lost hunting dogs”.
The HAI is the group that represents, on a national level, the interests of approximately 270 clubs across the nation that hunt with hounds. Many thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life enjoy legitimate country pursuits every weekend in Ireland and we value the reputation of clubs as responsible and law-abiding components of rural society.
Ms Keogh reports that: “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.”
I can assure your readers that registered hunt clubs take the welfare of their dogs very seriously and would typically spend hours, if not days, scouring countryside where a dog has become separated from the pack, sparing no effort to ensure they are returned safely to their kennels. Hunting folk spend much of their time feeding, exercising and caring for their beloved hunting hounds.
A quick phone call from any animal rescue facility anywhere in the country to their local hunt should establish whether or not the animal belongs to a registered club. Hunt clubs may often assist in rehoming such dogs, where possible.
Ms Keogh makes a number of references to beagles in the context of illegal poaching. I want to clarify for your readers that beagles are most unlikely to be used for such criminal activities and that if these unfortunate animals are being brought into rehoming shelters they are almost certainly unwanted family pets. Also, lurchers are not used by legal hunts for any purpose.
Your reporter is quite correct to highlight the problems caused by gangs roaming the countryside, coming on to land without permission and engaging in game poaching and badger-baiting.
The HAI unreservedly condemns such illegal and criminal behaviour and urge members of the public with reliable information to contact the Gardaí.
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