Hare coursers face up to six months in prison as the Government clamps down on the illegal “sport”.
Hares – a declining sight in Britain’s countryside – are chased to exhaustion by dogs – usually lurchers.
Hare coursing is usually associated with rural crime.
People who try to stop hare coursers are often met with personal threats and violence.
New legislation will include unlimited fines and – for the first time – a prison sentence.
The police will be reimbursed for kennelling dogs caught hare coursing and disqualify offenders from owning a dog.
Tim Bonner, Countryside Alliance chief executive, said:
“Hare poaching has been ‘a blight on rural communities for far too long.
“Despite their best efforts, police forces across the country struggle to tackle hare poachers and we have long campaigned to give them and the courts additional powers.”
The measures will apply to England.
Coursing causes damage to the farm as coursers illegally break through fences and security features.
Once the chase starts crops are trampled and damaged, livestock spooked, and fields dug up by 4×4 tracks.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“There are persistent groups who illegally perpetuate hare coursing, creating challenges for the police.
“These new measures will give the police the additional powers to bring prosecutions and confiscate dogs from owners involved in hare coursing.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“Illegal hare coursing has blighted rural communities for too long, resulting in criminal damage, threating violence and intimidation against farmers and landowners.
“Those responsible are often involved in other criminal activities – including drugs and firearms offences.
“I have been a longstanding supporter for essential reforms to our laws to stop hare coursing which is why we will act to prevent more people from suffering as a result of the actions of a law-breaking minority.”