Advice Issued For Dog Owners As We Head Into Spring

NFU Scotland is asking dog owners to take care in the countryside as reports of livestock attacks soar.

With many farms in the midst of lambing season, concern over livestock attacks and animal safety has continued to grow. Last year, NFU Mutual recorded a rise in dog owners letting their dog off the lead in UK countryside and less than half of which said they were able to recall their pet if necessary.

Coinciding with these statistics, a recent report by NFU Mutual identified that farm animals valued at an estimated £123,000 were severely injured or killed by dogs and their irresponsible owners in Scotland in 2023, more than double the 2022 cost.

As we enter spring and more people are expected to visit the countryside for a dog walk, NFU Scotland is urging dog owners to act responsibly and keep their dogs on a lead around livestock.

NFU Scotland Forth and Clyde member, Ian Cullens, suffered a fatal attack on a sheep pregnant with twins in recent weeks. The ewe was treated by vets following the attack but later died a week later, essentially taking three lives from Ian’s flock. He appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain recently to raise national awareness of the ongoing issue. When asked by the journalist what his plea to the general public is, Ian replied: “Keep your dog on a lead, end of!”

Ian did not witness the attack in person and was unable to trace the dog owner

responsible. If caught, livestock worrying is a serious offence that is punishable by fine (maximum £40,000) or up to 12 months imprisonment. Not only does this include when a dog attack causes the animal injury, but also includes: when an animal is stressed due to the presence of a dog causes a pregnant female to miscarry, lambs being chased by dogs are separated from their mothers, causing them to later die of starvation or hyperthermia, or when animals desperate to get away from the dog cause injury to themselves in their attempts to escape.

Particularly at a time when sheep and newborn lambs are at their most vulnerable, NFU Scotland Rural Business Policy Advisor, Rhianna Montgomery, has shared her advice for dog owners:

“If out in the countryside this weekend, it’s important to avoid livestock where possible. If this means planning your route in advance, please do so.
“Even the best behaved dogs can cause stress to livestock if the necessary steps are not taken to avoid it. If you come across sheep with or without lambs, ensure your dog is on a short lead as this is where you have the most control.
“If you see a livestock worrying incident, please report it immediately to the farmer.”