The proposed Bill aims to better protect livestock from worrying (attack, mutilation and trauma caused by uncontrollable dogs). The bill hopes to:
- update existing legislation,
- increase the maximum penalty available and harsher sanctions for irresponsible dog owners, and
- increase police powers to seize a dog for the purpose of evidence.
According to NFU Mutual, the number of dog attacks on sheep has increased by 67% in two years, and such attacks cost Scottish farms £330,000 in 2017 alone. In less than a decade, the number of recorded offences has more than doubled (from 81 in 2007/08, to 175 in 2016/17).
Under s.1of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, “if a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land, the owner of the dog, and, if it is in the charge of a person other than its owner, that person also, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.” However, no offence is committed should the attack happen when livestock are trespassing. For example, if the dog belonged to the owner of the land which the livestock are trespassing on, and the person in charge of the dog did not cause the dog to attack the livestock, the dog owner is not guilty under this Act.
The consultation speaks of Argyll & Bute farmer, Brian Walker, who discovered 17 of his ewes had been attacked during the night in March 2018. When he found them, four were already dead, seven were so severely maimed they had to be put down, leaving only six who were able to be saved.
Due to the attacks, the cost to Mr Walker was estimated to be around £4,000, but the farmer never received compensation despite charges being brought against the dog owner. In this case, the dog owner was allowed to keep the dogs involved in the livestock attack.
Ms Harper SNP concluded:
“Mr Walker is just one of hundreds of farmers across Scotland whose farms are affected by dogs chasing and attacking their livestock every year.
“We have, in Scotland, a real opportunity to provide better protection than current legislation affords to our farmers, tenant farmers, crofters, estates and wildlife by strengthening legal obligations to ensure that when enjoying the countryside, people are accessing it responsibly by keeping their dogs under control.”
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Our team appreciate the difficulties faced by people working in the farming and agricultural industries. If your livestock have been injured as a result of a dog attack, get in touch today via the online enquiry form.