The Law Relating to Working Ferrets in the Field
If you are hunting rabbits with ferrets there are a number of legal requirements enshrined in UK law which you must observe.
The Ground Game Act dates back to 1880 and it gives landowners the right to hunt and kill rabbits on their land. Unless the land on which you intend to hunt belongs to you permission is needed before you start. Whilst there is no legal requirement for that permission to be in writing it is good practice. A simple document bearing the date, the name and address of the landowner and signed should suffice with a sentence such as: “I confirm that Mr……of …(.address) has been granted permission to ferret for rabbits on (specify the land in question)” together with any other detail if appropriate, such as on “only at weekends”.
The Hunting Act of 2004 classifies hunting rabbits as exempt hunting, providing the hunter has permission from the landowner, or is the landowner himself.
The Abandonment of Animals Act of 1960 makes it an offence to abandon an animal. If your jill goes to ground you need to take steps to retrieve her even if it means digging her out. A good way to minimise the problem is to use a locator.
Rabbits are wild animals and in 1996 the Wild Animals Protection Act was introduced making it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering. Rabbits should be hunted and killed quickly and efficiently to ensure you comply.
The Welfare of Animals during Transport dates from 2007. It applies to everyone who transports vertebrates – including ferrets – in connection with an economic activity. So if you sell the rabbits you catch or you are paid to hunt them it will apply to any journey in which you transport ferrets over 65km (40 miles) – that means a total round trip. Authorisation is valid for five years.
DEFRA is responsible for issuing these licenses and you can contact them:
Helpline If you need a quick response, please contact the telephone Helpline 08459 33 55 77
Helpline staff can answer many of the questions put to them. If they are unable to answer an enquiry themselves, they will connect callers to other Defra staff who can deal with enquiries on specialist issues.
Email or Post
17 Smith Square
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