A man who pleaded not guilty to letting slip a greyhound after a hare, contrary to wildlife law, was fined just €100 in the District Court this week (March 9 ) after the judge admitted he wasn’t aware of this legislation either.
The court heard from conservation ranger Noel Bugler how he had been out on Clongowney Bog, between Belmont and Ballinahown, on March 23, 2010 when he saw two men let slip a number of hounds in a known hare conservancy.
The man in court facing the charge was Seamus Daly (48 ), from Aughnacliffe, Co Longford who told Judge Seamus Hughes he was selling a pup to a man from England and “we didn’t even catch a hare!”
Daly pleaded not guilty, saying he was not aware this was an offence, and Judge Hughes, a noted outdoorsman, also admitted “I, as judge, didn’t know that”.
Mr Bugler explained how, under Irish wildlife law, the hare was a protected species and could only be hunted by gun in open seasons, and not with dogs since 2003. He pointed out that rabbits could be hunted with dogs at any time of the year.
“Can you tell the difference between a rabbit and a hare at 400 yards?” asked the judge.
“It depends on the habitat, and where this [offence] was, was not for rabbits,” said Mr Bugler.
Daly told the court the man he was with on the day in question brought him along a bog road and told him “there were rabbits along here”.
Daly conceded the man he was with, who was not before the court, knew the area and that he did not.
Mr Bugler told the court he was not far from the men when a hare rose 40 or 50 metres in front of them and “three or four of the other gentleman’s dogs lit off up the bog”.
He told the court that one of the dogs in Daly’s care was let slip but that he “was not sure which one was his”.
This was denied by Daly who still claimed his six-month old pup was on the lead at all times.
He admitted again he did not know it was an offence, and Judge Hughes sympathised somewhat.
“It’s an unusual offence but not the most serious. How many people involved in this very old sport would be aware of this law? You’re off up a mountain some day and you let them off and blood them. How many people in rural Ireland would know?” enquired Judge Hughes.
The judge then turned to Daly and asked him whether the other gentleman bought the pup if he had come over from England and had not seen it “performing” as Daly had claimed.
“He did, your honour. He took a chance on him,” said Daly.
“I’m satisfied he didn’t know it was an offence, so I’m not going hard on this man,” said the judge before fining Daly €100 and giving him three months to pay.