There is no statutory duty on local authorities, or anyone else, to control foxes in their areas. In so far as authorities are owners and occupiers of property, they have the same powers to control foxes as any other owner or occupier. They also have a general discretionary power under the Local Government Act 2000 that enables them to take any action to promote social, economic or environmental well-being as long as there is no specific statutory prohibition.
Natural England has published an advisory leaflet on urban foxes that describes a number of different approaches to control that are suitable in urban situations. The leaflet is available on the Natural England website or by contacting its Wildlife Management and Licensing Service.
If a local authority requested advice from DEFRA, we would recommend non-lethal methods to resolve fox problems (as territories made vacant by culling resident foxes are rapidly colonised by new individuals) and suggest the authority seeks further technical advice from a wildlife management adviser in Natural England if required.
DEFRA occasionally receives complaints regarding urban foxes among a large quantity of correspondence about foxes more generally. This information has been held only since 2007 and it would not be reasonable or cost effective to undertake a manual search of our records to distinguish those cases that are specifically complaints about urban foxes.
The UK has strict controls on importing rabies susceptible animals from other countries—six-months quarantine for some cases, or vaccination followed by a six-month waiting period for certain travelling pets. These controls offer good protection against a rabies outbreak, whether in domestic animals, livestock or wildlife, including urban foxes.
DEFRA, with the Food and Environment Research Agency and other partners, maintains contingency planning arrangements for a rabies outbreak in wildlife, which are currently being reviewed and updated. Measures to tackle the disease in urban foxes would include targeted vaccination programmes, although specific control measures would be determined by expert veterinary and other advice in response to any rabies incident.