Livestock attacks: Police Scotland and rural organisations combine forcesPress Release
A campaign to protect Scotland’s livestock has been launched following new legislation which protects animals from dog attacks through a range of measures including updating the livestock definition, fines up to £40,000 and prison sentences for owners who let their pets worry, kill or injure farmed animals.
SPARC, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, which Scottish Land & Estates is a partner of, is launching the Livestock Attack and Distress campaign with the slogan: ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’ to educate dog owners about the new legislation plus, where applicable, use the new powers to report owners of dogs which attack livestock.
The campaign was launched by SPARC today (11 January) at an event attended by SPARC members at the Pentland Hills Regional Park, near Balerno. The regional park is a popular location for dog walking and has unfortunately experienced a number of attacks on farm animals in recent years.
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force on 5 Nov 2021, following a successful Members Bill brought by Emma Harper, MSP, supported by SPARC, SLE, NFUS and livestock owners after continued attacks on farm animals by out-of-control dogs.
Under the new legislation, camelids such as llamas and alpacas, together with ostriches, game birds and farmed deer are now protected plus the inclusion of the word “attack” is welcomed as this clearly reflects the more serious aspect of such an incident. The new law also includes provision to fine the owners of dogs that attack livestock up to £40,000 or even send them to prison.
The campaign will run through the lambing season, when sheep and lambs are most vulnerable to attacks and will be then run again in the autumn.
The need to communicate the new measures to the dog-owning public has been shown by a recent survey* commissioned by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual with Scottish dog owners. Only 4% of people surveyed knew they could now be fined up to £40,000 if their dog attacked livestock and only 22% knew they could be sent to prison if their dog attacked livestock.
NFU Mutual claims figures show that the UK cost of dog attacks on livestock rose by 50% in the first quarter of 2021 (compared to the same period the previous year) as the pandemic led to a surge in dog ownership and countryside visits.
Simon Ovenden, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates said: “We are proud to be part of the new campaign ‘Your dog - your responsibility’ because the effects of livestock attacks cannot be underestimated. The new legislation which we campaigned hard for has brought in tougher penalties for dog owners and covers a wide range of farm animals including alpacas and game birds. Attacks on farm animals by dogs not only have an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers when their animals are killed or injured, but also have an effect on the animals themselves, their productivity and welfare.
“Our members who own and manage farms and estates, welcome visitors and walkers so they can enjoy the fresh air and countryside. But dog owners should always keep their dogs on a short leash if they are in an area where farm animals could be. If their dogs attack the animals, they could face up to a £40,000 fine or even be sent to prison and what was meant to be a relaxing walk could turn into a tragedy for everyone involved.”
Inspector Alan Dron, Police Scotland National Rural Crime Co-ordinator said: “Attacks on livestock by dogs is an emotive issue that impacts on rural communities throughout Scotland therefore Police Scotland welcomes this new legislation which can hopefully assist in preventing, reducing and tackling such instances.
“Its introduction is timely given the increase in dog ownership experienced during COVID and the aim of the campaign is designed to educate and raise awareness amongst dog owners, whether new or experienced, that their dog is very much their responsibility.”
NFU Scotland Policy Manager Rhianna Montgomery said: “NFUS is delighted to be involved in this campaign. With hundreds of incidents across Scotland each year, the protection of livestock is paramount for our members. The new Bill gives greatly enhanced powers to tackle this blight. Working closely with other stakeholders, informing and educating the public of good practice when taking access in the countryside with dogs, and the penalties now in place for those who are irresponsible, is imperative in reducing the number of livestock attacks.”
Mark McBrearty, Regional Manager for Scotland at NFU Mutual, said: “Dog attacks are causing appalling suffering to animals and huge anxiety for farmers and crofters as they deal with the aftermath. The new legislation is a huge step forward as it means farmers and police are able to trace offending dogs’ owners and impose serious penalties.
“We’re supporting the ‘Your Dog - Your Responsibility’ campaign to spread the message about the new law and encourage irresponsible dog owners to control their pets. We want people to enjoy the countryside as it’s so important for people’s wellbeing. It’s vital that dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs under control whenever there is a possibility that livestock are nearby.”
The need for robust legislation was further demonstrated by an NFU Mutual survey** last year which showed that 64% of UK dog owners let their pets roam free in the countryside, despite half admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.
National Access Forum Advice to dog owners
- Do not allow your dog to approach animals or people uninvited (in open country, it may not be obvious when animals are around).
- Where possible avoid animals - release your dog if threatened.
- Always keep your dog in sight and under control – if in doubt use a lead.
National Access Forum Advice to land managers
- Consider public access and assess relevant risks.
- If necessary, use helpful signs to highlight issues to users, removing them when not required.
- Suggest reasonable alternative routes if needed.
*Survey conducted for NFU Mutual by Petbuzz Market Research with 261 Scottish dog owners from 23 December 2021 – 6 January 2022.
*Survey conducted for NFU Mutual by Petbuzz Market Research with 1,237 UK dog owners from 23 December 2020 - 12 January 2021.