Livestock Worrying Bill Progresses Through The Scottish Parliament

New, updated legislation – being taken forward by South Scotland MSP Emma Harper – which seeks to address the increasing levels of livestock worrying across Scotland is progressing through the Scottish Parliament – with the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee having just produced its Stage 1 Report.

The Member’s Bill will provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence of livestock worrying, and increase the maximum penalty to six months’ imprisonment (suspended sentence), a fine of £5,000, or both. It also provides clarity to Scotland’s legal profession both over the severity of the offence and over the application of the law which, at present, can be confusing and relies on 67 year old legislation.

Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee said it supports the general principles of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, subject to Ms Harper working with the Scottish Government to provide clarity in relation to sections of the Bill on power delegation and the enforcement of offences.

The South Scotland MSPs Bill, which also extends the definition of “livestock” to include additional types of farmed animal such as llamas, deer, and buffalo, will allow a court to make an order disqualifying convicted persons from owning or keeping a dog, or preventing them for taking dogs onto agricultural land where livestock is present.
Ms Harper has welcomed the committee report and looks forward to continuing to take her legislation forward in the coming weeks.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:
My Protection of Livestock (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill has received unanimous backing from Scotland’s leading agricultural, animal welfare and outdoor access bodies, including from the National Framers Union Scotland (NFUS), the Scottish SPCA, Dog’s Trust and the Scottish Outdoor Access Forum. It received over 800 responses to the consultation from farmers, dog owners and those involved with the agricultural community who agreed that the current legislation is outdated and who were supportive of the principles of the Bill.
“The Bill, as it currently stands, will provide the Police and legal bodies with additional powers which are designed to better investigate and enforce the offence of livestock worrying, it extends the legal definition of livestock and strengthens the penalties for those who carry out the offence to a £5,000 fine, 6 month suspended sentence, or disqualification from owning a dog.
“I welcome that, in principle, the Committee is supportive of my proposed legislation, as dog attacks can cause suffering to farm animals and significant financial cost to farmers. I also welcome that the evidence the committee heard from stakeholders has highlighted a number of areas in the Bill on which the Committee considers more clarity and/or amendment is needed. I therefore have given commitments to work with committee members and the Scottish Government to address these concerns and to ensure we have a Bill which all can support.
“The Bill, and all related documents including the committee report, can be found on the Scottish Parliament’s website and I am also more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have at any time.”

The Committee’s stage 1 report will be available here.
The Member’s Bill was introduced by Emma Harper MSP on 14 May 2020. It updates the existing law on “livestock worrying”, in the main, by amending the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.
The Bill:
• increases the maximum penalty to a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months
• allows the courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on agricultural land
• gives the police greater powers to investigate and enforce livestock worrying offence, including going onto land to identify a dog, seize it and collect evidence from it
• allows other organisations to be given similar powers
• extends the “livestock worrying” offence to cover additional types of farmed animal
• renames the offence as that of “attacking or worrying livestock”, with the intention of emphasising how serious it can be.

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