A group dedicated to illegal coursing featured an advert for a 'proper hare-killing machine' as well as photos of dogs holding dead hares, reports Matt Cross

Hare coursing dogs are being offered as ‘raffle prizes’ in private online groups. Shooting Times was able to join a group dedicated to hare coursing in Essex and our investigations found people openly discussing hare coursing, buying and selling dogs, offering them as prizes in raffles and offering for sale veterinary medicines only available by prescription.

Some of the posts were relatively innocent, with one group administrator posting a video of a hare being ‘squeaked in’ and others posting images of gundogs or lurchers, which were seemingly not for sale. However, other members were more open about their activities. One user posted an image of a rough-coated lurcher with the caption, “My pal’s pup for season. Saluki, deerhound, collie, greyhound. Proper hare killing machine, 15 month old, Ozzy blood lines”. Many other users posted photos either showing them holding dead hares or showing their dogs doing so.

Veterinary medicines, including the painkiller meloxicam and the antibiotics amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium were also openly offered for sale. These drugs should only be available with a prescription from a vet and can be harmful to dogs if they are used incorrectly. However, individuals involved in coursing and badger digging are often unwilling to seek veterinary attention for their dogs in case they have to explain how they sustained their injuries. The medicines offered for sale appear to be from a company that is not registered to supply animal medications in the UK, raising the prospect that they may have been imported illegally.

A number of dogs were offered as ‘raffle prizes’. One post had an image of a saluki-cross lurcher and the caption, “Good raffle here boys — 1 to 14, £30 a number and whoever wins him will have £20 back for luck”. Also offered for raffle were handheld thermal spotter units. These high-tech systems detect heat and allow users to easily identify animals and people in complete darkness. Potentially these systems could be used to spot hares at night or to check for any human observers. Unsurprisingly, however, the suggestion that people might pay £150 a ticket to take part in an online raffle for poaching equipment, run by a person they did not know, which was to be drawn at a time and place that was not stated, seemed to meet with few takers.