Hunting was banned in Scotland in 2002 and England and Wales in 2004. However, these bans have not been properly enforced, the attempts to eliminate or weaken them continue, and hunting is still legal in Northern Ireland.

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Terrier work, which is often associated with hunting, sees terriers introduced to a hole in the ground to flush out or force a wild animal to escape, or to dig it out and kill it. Beware. This simple description hides some of the cruellest scenes to take place during fox hunting.

If the animal does not escape the hole immediately, the terrier men will dig down to access the animals, a process which can take hours. If the animal, usually a fox, does not bolt from the hole there can be an underground battle between the fox and terrier in which severe injuries can be sustained as they each fight for their lives. Once exposed, the terrified fox is either dragged out and shot or mauled by the dogs. 

Before the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, terrier work – sometimes referred to as hunting with terriers - was a particularly brutal feature of fox hunting, however it is often still legal. Lobbying by the shooting industry led to the insertion of a ‘gamekeepers exemption’ into the Act, permitting the use of a dog underground to hunt foxes to protect 'game' birds as long as certain conditions are met and a code of practice (created by the shooting industry) is followed.

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Terrier Work as a ‘sport’

Dedicated websites exist to celebrate and perpetuate the pitting of dog against fox under the guise of pest control. Detailed descriptions of the activities of working terriers are often accompanied by graphic and horrifying images shared from the results of this secretive ‘sport’. 

In addition to the cruelty to the foxes, injuries sustained by these working terriers often go untreated, their scars seen by their owners as proud trophies from their fights. Professional veterinary care is frequently not sought and dogs are treated at home by their owners using medicines bought from shadowy websites. 

Since the passing of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Hunting Act 2004 the League has not observed any decline in the frequency of terrier work. Hunts claiming to be lawfully trail hunting are still accompanied by terrier men whose purpose is to put terriers below ground to flush foxes to be shot or for an illegal hunt to continue – our Scottish hunt investigation demonstrated this.

Badgers are also often the victim of terrier work, but this is more commonly referred to as ‘badger baiting’. Ultimately any wild animal can be subjected to terrier work, but the fox is the most common animal affected. 

Fox terrier with the face covered in blood held by a chain

Social Media and the Horror of Terrier Work

With the rise in popularity of social media, our Investigations Team decided to look at whether those taking part in terrier work were using Facebook and other social media channels to share what they do. We were shocked at what we found.

During a year-long investigation, we discovered 1400 images related to fox hunting with terriers. These included pictures of injured dogs, and sometimes images of the people involved with their terriers, or with the foxes that had been killed.

Key findings included:

  • 212 suspected individuals involved with terrier work were prioritised for investigation.
  • 46 intelligence reports were forwarded to the police and RSPCA for potential enforcement action.
  • 13 people investigated during this time had links to registered fox hunts

In addition to its role within fox hunting, terrier work also continues to occur as a standalone recreational pastime for individuals and gangs of men across the country who enjoy using their terriers to attack foxes and badgers.

In addition to individuals posting material relating to terrier work on social media, there are also numerous groups dedicated to terrier work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bebo. These include ‘I love to kill foxes’ and various other working dog sites.

The League has made 57 complaints to social media platforms in relation to posted material and this has resulted in 48 pages being removed. It should be noted that this action is only undertaken when nothing of evidential value is found and it usually results in users creating new accounts.

All the evidence suggests that putting dogs underground to chase and fight foxes – terrier work – leads to some of the worst cruelty associated with hunting. The use of dogs underground should be prohibited as part of strengthened anti hunting laws as a matter of urgency.

Terrier man holding a dead fox and an injuried terrier

How can I help stop terrier work?

  • Contact your MP and ask them to help strengthen the Hunting Act to ban terrier work once and for all. 
  • Share this page on your social media


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