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Gardaí investigating complaint about 'almost dead' hares released back into wild

The Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht has also raised the matter and requested that hares be kept until they have fully recovered.

Image: Hare image via Shutterstock

GARDAÍ IN WEXFORD are investigating a complaint made by an animal rights group after it emerged that a number of hares that were used at a hare coursing meeting were released back into the wild in a very poor condition.

A report by a conservation ranger for the National Parks and Wildlife Service released to the Irish Council Against Blood Sports and seen by TheJournal.ie, reveal that six hares released back into the wild in conditions “ranging from poor to almost dead”.

Three were reported to have injuries so serious they couldn’t move and another “limped off”. One hare had also died by the completion of 2012 coursing in the area.

The council against blood sports has now lodged a complaint with gardaí claiming that the release of animals that are sick or injured is in breach of the Protection of Animals Act.

“We contend that releasing these sick and/or injured hares into the wild without treating them for their injuries or euthanising them on humanatarian grounds constitutes a breack of the 1911 Protection of Animals Act,” the complaint reads.

The Irish Wildlife Trust has previously warned about the damaging effects of hare coursing and campaigns officer Padraic Fogarty explained this week that there is evidence to show that “hare suffer a kind of trauma after being released back into the wild” when they’ve been used in coursing.

“After that we don’t know whether it will affect their survival but they are more likely to be eaten by a fox if they’re traumatised,” he said.

Fogarty said that the trust, which has called for alternatives to fox hunting and hare coursing to be implemented, was disappointed that an outright ban on the sport was “not even up for serious discussion” by the government.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht confirmed that the conservation ranger in Wexford had identified some hares released in a state of poor health.

“The department raised this matter with the Irish Coursing Club earlier this month and suggested that hares be kept until they have fully recovered and are healthy before being released into the wild,” it said. “The views of the Irish Coursing Club were sought on this event.”

The department said that just over half of all coursing meetings were attended by rangers, an increase on previous years. An average of 98 per cent of the hares captured for hare coursing have been returned to the wild over the past four hare coursing seasons and the department said that this is the percentage released in the 2012/2013 season.

The Irish Coursing Club did not return calls requesting comment on the issue.

Related: Irish Wildlife Trust calls on public to help change animal welfare bill>
Read: Protest over National Coursing Meeting to take place outside Dáil>

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