One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Badger Trust
Badgers are a protected species because of the extreme levels of persecution they face. In 1992, the Protection of Badgers Act (PBA) gave badgers across the UK unrivalled protection. The National Federation of Badger Groups (precursor to Badger Trust) was instrumental in bringing this legislation to fruition. Unlike most native wildlife protections in Britain, the Protection of Badgers Act was initiated due to the unprecedented levels of species-targeted persecution faced by these unassuming nocturnal mammals. Thus, the Protection of Badgers Act is concerned with animal welfare as a priority, compared with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 , which focuses more explicitly on wildlife conservation. Additional legal protection is sometimes provided by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Hunting Act 2004. Badgers are also listed in Appendix III of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.
Why badger setts are protected by law As with badgers, badger setts are also protected from harm under the Protection of Badgers Act, 1992. Iit is illegal to disturb, damage or destroy a badger’s sett, whether the act was committed intentionally (malicious crime) or without knowledge of their legally protected status (negligent crime).
Dogs in badger setts
Small dogs, like terriers, are very curious about animal holes and, on occasion, try and get down sett entrances if you’re out walking them off the lead.
What is your responsibility as a dog owner?
It is your responsibility to keep your dog on a lead in areas where badgers may be present, or you can see a badger sett, especially if your dog is a terrier or similar small dog that could enter a sett. Keeping your dog on a lead is even more important in the winter and spring months, when newborn cubs may be present underground. The sounds the cubs make and the smell, heightened by the cold air, can make your dog inquisitive.
What is the law and how are badgers protected?
Be aware that badgers and their setts are protected by law. The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) sets out the full protection. In terms of dogs and badger setts, the legislation states that it is an offence to ‘damage, destroy, obstruct or cause a dog to enter a badger sett.’ So allowing your dog to go too near a badger sett at all is best avoided for you, your dog and the badgers.
A guide to what to do if your dog enters a badger sett and does not return
Establish if your dog has actually entered the sett via an entrance hole; sometimes people think the dog has, but it has run past or behind.
Do Not Dig – this may be your first instinct, but apart from being an illegal activity (without a licence), this could result in an injured or dead dog/badger.
Identify the hole entered and keep an eye on that and other nearby entrance/exit holes.
Record your location (a grid reference or what3words is beneficial).
Call the RSPCA/SSPCA and your local Badger Group or us at Badger Trust.
Stay at the sett – this is important as the dog may leave anytime. If you are not there, you may incorrectly assume it is still underground, plus your dog will not easily find you if it gets out. If you can’t stay, get someone else to stay – perhaps in shifts – as you could have a long wait.
Listen out for your dog and call to it. If it can hear you, it may be encouraged to make efforts to get out.
Food – place your dog’s favourite food and water at nearby holes – this can entice your dog out.
Toys – it can be worth trying a ‘squeaky’ toy that the dog loves and will recognise so that it can hear it, locate you and attempt to head to you.
Time – you MUST wait 48 hours (unless the dog comes out sooner) before taking any other action. In nearly all cases, the dog will appear within that time frame.
What to remember if your dog enters a badger sett and does not return
Badgers and their setts are protected by law. Whilst your priority is to get your dog out of the sett you must remain calm, work to coax your dog out of its own accord, and bear the following in mind:
No action must be taken until all parties are notified; this includes the landowner and Natural England, who, if necessary, will issue a licence for exploratory/rescue work.
Under licence, a camera can be inserted into the sett to try and locate the dog.
As a last resort, an attempt can be made to dig down to the dog if the licence allows, but this is risky and can endanger both the life of the dog and any badgers present.
Remember, dogs can survive underground without food for several days, and often this timelapse needs to occur so that the dog can squeeze free if wedged in a tunnel.
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