A trailblazing Argyll & Bute police constable has visited the Dumfries & Galloway Police Scotland division to pass on the work he has undertaken to tackle incidents of dogs attacking livestock.
PC Ben Rusden, of the Mid Argyll police station, was the officer who dealt with one of the worst cases of livestock attacks in Scotland in recent years when a farm in Inveraray suffered an attack on 17 sheep – 11 of which died as a result of the incident.
Since that attack, PC Rusden has worked to educate his colleagues on how to deal with incidents of livestock attacks by dogs and has engaged with farmers about the importance of reporting such incidents and to reassure them that all reports will be taken seriously.
On Friday, PC Rusden and Argyll & Bute Council Environmental Officer Graham Hatton met with officers in Dumfries to pass on their knowledge and best practices for dealing with livestock attacks. Information shared included advice on obtaining forensic evidence, signage for fields where livestock are located and specially designed ‘advice for farmer’ leaflets on the actions to take by a farmer following a suspected dog attack on livestock.
Local MSP Emma Harper , who is currently running a public consultation to tackle incidents of dogs attacking livestock with a view to improving the law in Scotland by bringing forward a Parliamentary Members’ Bill, said:
“Many of the images I have seen and the description of incidents are quite traumatic. This work that PC Ben Rusden has been doing is so proactive in reaching out to other police divisions across Scotland to inform them on the best practices to deal with livestock attacks, which statistics show have more than doubled in Scotland in the past decade.
“Incidents of livestock attacks occur when an off-lead dog chases and attacks the livestock, mostly sheep, but there have been instances of horses, cattle and calves injured or dead. This is traumatising for both the farmer and livestock involved, and so it is of the upmost importance that police officers are educated on how best to handle such incidents, which depending on the rurality of the area they cover could be something they have never come across before.
“I’m delighted this meeting has taken place so that officers here in Dumfries & Galloway will be better prepared when the call comes in that a livestock attack has happened in their area.
“PC Rusden has also engaged with farmers by providing posters to remind the public to keep a dog on a lead near livestock, and has reassured farmers that all calls regarding livestock attacks will be taken seriously. I am encouraged that the police in Dumfries & Galloway, who already have a strong relationship with local farmers, invited PC Rusden and Mr Hatton to Dumfries to discuss their experiences.”
Michael Russell MSP added:
“I fully support PC Ben Rusden in sharing his knowledge of best practices for handling livestock attacks and for his outstanding work at a local level to raise awareness of this issue and to provide Argyll’s farmers with reassurance that every reported livestock attack will be taken extremely seriously.
“The work of PC Rusden, and others including Argyll & Bute Council’s Environmental Officer, Graham Hatton, to tackle this issue should be commended and as their local MSP I’m proud to see professionals in this area setting the standard for others across the country to follow.”
Following the meeting, PC Ben Rusden said:
“Although it is great to receive recognition for all the work I have put in to raising the profile and the Preventing Livestock Attacks in Mid Argyll. I am only one person in what is a very productive and enthusiastic team.
“After the horrendous attack last year in Inveraray. It was clear to me that each organisation was working away independently with the best intention but failing to make a real difference. A group of local likeminded individuals had naturally formed from this horrendous incident in Inveraray.
“It was clear that collectively we could achieve much more working collaboratively. Each member of the group was able to contribute and we each gained from each other’s point of view and experience.
“Having the backing and support from Brian Walker who is a farmer and victim of such an incident. His input throughout the whole process has been invaluable.
“In my opinion the most important part of our work is that we have operated locally to challenge and tackle the issue connecting on a personal level. We have established single points of contact who are each passionate about the issue. I feel this has been well received by our local Farming community.
“We have developed a number of documents that can be adapted to fit any region.
“I would like to take this opportunity to ask anyone who would like to receive further information on what we have done to tackle livestock attacks within Mid Argyll or to receive signs or linked documentation to contact myself.”
Take part in Emma Harper MSP’s public consultation on her proposed Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill: https://www.parliament.scot/gettinginvolved/111027.aspx