An investigation is ongoing into the death of a number of hares at a recent Galway coursing meeting.

Loughrea Coursing Club had its licence to net hares “indefinitely suspended” last month following confirmation that three hares died during the first day of an annual meeting.

That hare-netting licence is still suspended, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has confirmed.

Responding to a recent parliamentary question in relation to the incident, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, confirmed that officials from his department were present at the October coursing meeting.

Three hares died during the first day of the event, the minister confirmed. The results of a post mortem, carried out by Athlone Regional Veterinary laboratory, have yet to be revealed.

“The hare netting license for this club was immediately and indefinitely suspended pending a full investigation of this matter,” the minister said, earlier this month.

He said the remaining hares that were detained for that coursing event were released and “appeared to be in good health”.

The parliamentary question posed by Deputy Paul Murphy also sought an answer to whether the coursing club in question was accommodated by another club to run its events on a subsequent weekend.

To this, the minister responded that his officials “were not informed by the club concerned of any alternative arrangements for the stakes that were due to be run by the club during their own meeting”.

He said the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is responsible for the conservation of the hare.

The control of live hare coursing, the operation of individual coursing meetings and managing the use of hares for that activity – under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 -are matters for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, he said.

Welfare concerns

A number of animal-welfare groups are calling for the post-mortem results of the hares to be made public.

A statement from the Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (CACS) has stated its concern that the hares may have had rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV).

“If it should emerge that the animals had the RHDV, the entire coursing season should be immediately called off on conservationist and disease-control grounds,” the statement said.