Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 - Now in Force


Hunting for a wild mammal using a dog is now an offence unless it is carried out for a permitted exception under the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2003 (the “Act”), in which case it must be carried out in accordance with certain conditions. Rat or mice control using dogs is unaffected as rats and mice are not “wild mammals” for the purposes of the Act.

An owner or occupier of land (which includes someone who manages or controls the land or who is authorised to give permission for the land to be used as hunting) also commits an offence if they knowingly cause or permit someone to hunt a wild mammal using a dog on their land other than in accordance with the Act.

Permitted exceptions and conditions

A dog can only be used to hunt for a wild mammal for the following purposes:

  • Management of wild mammals above ground.
  • Management of foxes below ground.
  • Searching, stalking or flushing a wild mammal to provide quarry for falconry, game shooting or deer stalking.
  • Relieving the suffering of injured wild mammals.
  • Searching for dead wild mammals.
  • In connection with certain environmental benefits.

No more than two dogs can be used. Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that any dog involved is kept under control and does not form a pack of more than two dogs. In the case of management of foxes below ground, only one dog fitted with a tracker device can be used.

The landowner must have consented to the activity taking place on their land and detailed conditions apply in respect of the steps which must be taken to minimise the suffering of the wild mammal.


Using more than two dogs for the management of wild mammals above ground or foxes below ground may be permitted with a licence from the local authority. In granting a licence, the local authority must be satisfied that there is no other solution which would achieve the stated benefit other than the use of more than two dogs. Any licence will specify the permitted number of dogs and various other conditions.

Trail hunting

Trail hunting (i.e. laying or directing a dog to follow an animal based scent) is also an offence unless for training purposes only. No more than two dogs can be used and similar provisions apply in respect of controlling the dogs and landowner’s consent. In addition, reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that no wild mammal is pursued, injured or killed.

Offence provisions

Offences under the Act are punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of up to £40K.

A landowner whose land is to be used for hunting with a dog and/or for trail hunting must therefore ensure that the activity for which their land is to be used (and the way it is carried out) is lawful under the Act.

This note is intended as a brief summary of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023. No responsibility can be accepted for any action taken in relative on this note and specialist advice should be taken in every case. Turcan Connell would be happy to provide such advice.

©Turcan Connell November 2023