Big fines in new laws to protect livestock from dog attacks

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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 of 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, launched 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 Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force on November 5 last year, following a successful Members Bill brought by Emma Harper MSP, supported by SPARC, NFU Scotland 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 four per cent of people surveyed knew they could now be fined up to £40,000 if their dog attacked livestock and only 22 per cent 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 per cent 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.

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.’

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 per cent of UK dog owners let their pets roam free in the countryside, despite half admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.