Following extensive work to provide protection to farmers and crofters who have suffered attacks on livestock by dogs, NFU Scotland has backed the launch of a public consultation on this issue.
At the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 21 February, Emma Harper MSP launched a public consultation ahead of a proposed Members Bill to tackle incidents of dogs attacking livestock, the detail of which NFU Scotland has played an integral role in.
The proposed bill aims to give police, courts and potentially other agencies more powers to properly tackle offences of dogs attacking livestock.
Livestock attacks continue to be a blight on Scottish agriculture, and NFU Scotland launched a campaign earlier in February to influence a change in behaviours of irresponsible dog owners and encourage them to keep their dogs on a lead when walking on farmland.
Last year Police Scotland had 338 incidents of attacks on livestock by dogs reported to them. Out of 340 responses from a recent NFU Scotland survey, 72 per cent said they had an issue with livestock worrying on their land whilst 84 per cent of responses felt the outdoor access code requiring ‘on a lead or under close control’ didn’t provide sufficient protection to them or their livestock.
Martin Kennedy, Vice President of NFU Scotland commented: “This public consultation is welcomed by NFU Scotland. It is a useful platform on which to build towards more proportionate sanctions for those irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to worry livestock.
“Last year the Union outlined ‘key asks’ that it would like to see within a bill – in particular higher fines, a ban on owning dogs and additional powers for the police – so we are delighted that some of these asks are included within the proposed bill from Emma Harper MSP.
“Irresponsible dog owners need to realise the impact they are having on farmers and crofters and their livestock. It is not necessarily about the financial losses they face, but the trauma for livestock and their offspring, as well as the emotional impact on the farmer and their family.
“We would encourage as many farmers and crofters as possible to fill out this consultation within the 12-week window to provide a true reflection of the extent dog attacks on livestock continue to have on our industry.”
Commenting, Ms Harper said:
“We have seen various campaigns over past years which aim to educate the public on why it is important to control their dogs in a responsible way when near livestock.
“However, despite these sincere efforts, we have seen instances of livestock worrying rise in recent years – this is why I think it is now time for a change to the law to introduce a range of serious penalties to show the public what will happen if they allow their dogs to worry or attack livestock.
“I anticipate this range of measures will promote responsible behaviour from dog owners, and will deter people from allowing their dogs to roam freely near livestock.
“The consequences of an off lead dog in a field of livestock can be devastating and traumatic for both the farmer and their animals.
“I would like to thank all of the organisations and members of the public involved in supporting my proposals to date and I would encourage everyone to have their say through this consultation which is now live online and available in hard copy.”
Clare Slipper, Political Affairs Manager of NFU Scotland, added:
“Despite a vast amount of awareness raising, livestock worrying continues to blight Scottish farmers and crofters. Dogs themselves are not to blame, it’s their irresponsible owners who need to wake up and understand the devastation this is causing.
“We are delighted to work with Emma Harper MSP on the launch of the consultation for the Members Bill and feel this is a real opportunity to clamp down on the issue once and for all – hopefully saving our members immeasurable heartache and considerable financial losses.
“We urge as many people as possible to fill out the consultation and give their views on an issue that continues to blight Scottish agriculture.”
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said:
“We fully support Emma Harper MSP and the public consultation with regards to dogs attacking livestock.
“This is an issue that we are constantly campaigning to raise awareness of and we are pleased this is now at a stage where it is being looked at in Parliament.
“Our animal helpline, rescue officers and inspectors are regularly contacted regarding livestock attacks and we welcome the opportunity this consultation creates to reduce these potentially devastating incidents.
“We encourage everyone to take part in this consultation. It’s up to everyone who enjoys the countryside to be a responsible citizen and to be fully aware of their impact on the surrounding environment.”