Pest Control & Humane Dispatch

Pest Control in the UK is commonly associated with the protection of crops and livestock however pest control really is the regulation or management of any species defined as a pest. While sometimes controversial, the classification of pest is usually because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person’s health, the ecology or the economy.In large metropolitan areas the high concentration of people and food often brings with it pests, such as feral pigeons, rats and foxes. Whereas in the countryside, Wood pigeons, Foxes, Rabbits and Crows and many other animals are actively controlled by farmers and land owners to prevent damage to crops and other economic assets such as rivers, and woods.

Feral pigeons find ample food supply in the city and nesting space in lofts and warehouses and can thrive to large numbers from which they become a problem. The feces of large numbers of nesting birds become a haven for disease, and can rot  timber beams in lofts. Prevention is better than cure; Ensure your roof is well sealed and pigeons should not be able to enter to nest. However feral pigeons already nesting should be shot and removed by an experienced pest controller. It is suggested that a low powered air rifle, or high powered air pistol be used to shoot and remove nesting feral pigeons without risking damage to roofing tiles or slates. Feral Pigeons may be controlled by the terms of the general license at all times of the year, an illuminating or night vision device may be used if necessary.

Both rats and foxes will thrive wherever there is an ample supply of food, both will burrow in gardens to create points of access near food supplies, and nests and dens to raise young in. Foxes and rats carry many diseases and parasites, and foxes are widely regarded the biggest vector for rabies in Europe. Both foxes and rats will chew through or knock over dustbins and bin bags in order to find food, creating unwanted mess. While foxes may fight with domestic pets and have even been known to attack humans. City dwelling foxes are best caught in traps to be disposed of by a qualified professional. Rats can be trapped, poisoned or shot, many qualified professionals will have the traps and knowledge to carry out such activity’s safely and professionally.

In the country, while foxes might once have been killed in sporting pursuit by horses and hounds, foxes are primarily controlled with firearms, to protect young lambs, and ground nesting native game birds such as the English partridge. As Foxes have no natural predators, aside from Eagles, controlling a population is often necessary. Night vision units and lighting devices are permitted to shoot foxes with all year round under the terms of the general license. Heavily loaded Shotgun cartridges, and .22 rim fire rifles can be used to shoot foxes at very close range, while for longer distance shots a larger caliber center fire rifle is  required.

Rabbits, wood pigeons and crows may all be controlled under the terms of the general license to protect crops. Air rifles, shotguns and rim fire rifles can be used to effectively control these species. Wood pigeons and Crows are best shot on flight lines or over decoys, while rabbits are best shot at dawn or dusk.

The General license is a license published yearly by Natural England, the license lists the different species of animals that may be controlled, and the circumstances under which they may be controlled, for instance, you may shoot a wood pigeon to prevent it eating crops of a field, but you may not shoot a wood pigeon off your bird table. The general license is not a license to kill any of the listed species and failing to comply with the conditions of the license is an offense. If you are considering carrying out any pest control activity you should read the general license, its updates and amendments regularly to ensure you are not unknowingly committing an offense.

The General license for 2013 can be found here:

For further information please see our blog category on “Pest Control”.

What is Humane Dispatch?

Humane dispatch is the deliberate culling of an injured or wounded animal to avoid unnecessary suffering and to prevent the animal from causing injury to others whilst it is in distress. The act is commonly associated with deer which as been hit by traffic. In parts of the UK, nominated volunteers who have been trained and carry the necessary equipment may be called upon to carry out the act, however there is no specific limitation on who is legally permitted or responsible for humane dispatch and those who encounter this situation often, or work with deer and other animals are eligible to apply for an exemption under section 5 on the grounds of humane dispatch.

Section 5 – Firearms Act

Under Section 5 of the Firearms Act any firearm with a barrel less than 30cm or a total length of 60cm is prohibited without authorization from the defense council:

Humane dispatch is one exception to this legislation, allowing the possession and use of handguns for this reason.

Further Reading

Guide to Culling Deer Invovled in Vehicle Collisions
BASC Guide – Handguns for Humane Dispatch
British Deer Society Advise Sheet on The Use of Handguns

©2021 Firearms UK.


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