Hunting with dogs and licensing

NatureScot has delegated authority for issuing licences for the use of more than two dogs to search for, stalk or flush from cover a wild mammal with more than two dogs under limited circumstances.

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023, repeals the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. The Act covers the offences and exceptions where a person is using a dog(s) to hunt a wild mammal. Each of these exceptions impose limits on the number of dogs that are permitted to be used. 


Under the Act it is an offence for any person to:

  • Hunt a wild mammal using a dog unless any of the exceptions under the Act apply.
  • Knowingly cause or permit another person to hunt a wild mammal using a dog unless any of the exceptions under the Act apply.
  • Undertake the activity of trail hunting except when training dogs to follow an animal-based scent for a lawful purpose.

The exceptions and the permitted number of dogs under the Act are as follows:

  • Management of wild mammals above ground – two dogs, unless a licence has been granted
  • Management of foxes below ground – one dog
  • Falconry, game shooting and deer stalking –two dogs
  • Relieving the suffering of injured wild mammals – two dogs
  • Searching for dead wild mammals – two dogs
  • Environmental benefit – two dogs, unless a licence has been granted

NatureScot can issue licences for using more than two dogs for (i) the management of wild mammals above ground; and (ii) environmental benefit.  For the each of those exceptions, the Act specifies particular “purposes” for which a licence can be granted.

How we assess applications for the use of more than two dogs

We will assess each application on its own merit.

Using the information provided by the applicant we will determine whether or not it meets the requirements of the following licensing tests:

  • Whether there’s a valid licensable purpose – e.g. foxes are causing/likely to cause serious damage to livestock (lambing)
  • If there is no other solution which would be effective in achieving the purpose – e.g. fencing, use of housing of livestock or use of firearms for control the wild mammal species.
  • For applications for environmental benefit (only), if the proposed activity is part of a scheme or plan and if the killing, capturing or observing of the wild mammal will contribute towards a significant or long-term environmental benefit.

If a licence is granted, we will only permit the minimum number of dogs that we are satisfied will be effective at achieving the purpose.

How to apply

Fill in the relevant application form and email it to [email protected]

Download the Licence application form – Preventing serious damage to livestock, woodlands or crops

Download the Licence application form – Environmental Benefit

Guidance notes for applicants requiring more than two dogs to manage a wild mammal species 

Licence changes

You should get in touch if you wish to amend a licence.

Licence returns

It is a condition of each licence that a return is submitted. Please refer to your licence for the return information required and send to [email protected] clearly stating your name and licence number in the subject.

Find out more


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

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