‘Control your Dog on Farmland’ focusses on livestock worrying and dog fouling
NFU Scotland has launched a new awareness-raising campaign to tackle the blight of irresponsible access by dog walkers in Scotland’s countryside.
The ‘Control Your Dog on Farmland’ campaign was launched at the Union’s AGM and Conference today (Thursday 7 February) at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow.
The 12-month campaign will focus on livestock worrying as well as on the increasing problem of dog fouling which can cause livestock to contract dangerous diseases.
The national campaign will tie in with key partners and complement other work that the Union has played an integral role in, including the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime’s recently launched campaign.
Livestock worrying and dog fouling are two of the biggest issues that farmers, crofters and landowners face through irresponsible access by dog owners.
The key messages are aimed at farmers and dog owners and include:
- Be informed – know your responsibilities under the Code
- Plan ahead – know your route, ensure you have poo bags and a lead
- Control your pet – keep dogs on a lead around livestock. Know the steps to take if things don’t go to plan – cattle charging, dog escapes?
- Don’t leave it hanging – picking up your dog’s poo is not enough, take it with you and put it in a bin, even if on the fringes of farmland. Do not just ‘flick it’ into the bushes.
In early December, NFU Scotland surveyed farmers, crofters and landowners about the issues they have with irresponsible access, either through livestock worrying by dogs, or the impacts of owners failing to pick up after their pets on or near farmland. The survey had more than 340 responses, which showed that:
- 72 per cent of respondents had an issue with livestock worrying on their land
- 100 per cent of survey respondents said they have an issue with dog fouling on their land – this included plastic bag pollution as well as instances where livestock have contracted diseases from eating dog poo and plastic bags.
- 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.
Over the last 12 months NFU Scotland stepped up its action to tackle livestock worrying, tying in with partner agencies and giving its backing to a Members’ Bill by Emma Harper MSP to change the access legislation, seeking tougher penalties for those convicted of allowing their dog to chase or attack livestock.
According to Police Scotland a total of 338 incidents of livestock worrying were reported to them in 2018, with 131 incidents resulting in police conducting investigations. This included sheep, cattle, horses, and other less known species such as llamas and alpacas. However, this issue is still hugely underreported, something which the campaign will seek to tackle.
For livestock, it is not just the physical attacks by dogs that can cause damage; even allowing dogs to chase or ‘play’ with sheep or cattle, for example, can cause untold damage – from emotional issues to abortions to rendering the animal unable to be used for breeding in future. In addition, there are significant emotional issues for the farmers involved who work tirelessly to breed quality sheep to the highest welfare standards.
The campaign educates dog owners about responsible access when walking on or near farmland through national and regional events, and will include our ‘Ambassadog’, interaction at agricultural and dog shows across the country, as well as a partnership with veterinary practices across the country.
This will be tied into publicity to encourage livestock producers and those facing issues with dog fouling to report irresponsible behaviour, how to do this correctly and avenues they can go down to seek further help from persistent offenders.
In addition to these two main issues, the campaign also seeks to educate walkers about the dangers of walking in fields with cattle and what to do if cattle charge at them or their pet.
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland President commented: “This new 12-month campaign demonstrates the Union’s commitment to tackling this serious issue. It is clear that the industry can no longer tolerate the problem of dog owners who do not control their dogs on farmland.
“I would urge all farmers and crofters to work with us on this issue and to report each and every incident of livestock being attacked or chased or pet owners allowing their dogs to foul on their land.
“Many people underestimate the damage dogs can do to livestock – whether that is attacking them when being off a lead or causing them to contract dangerous diseases through their poo – we need dog owners to take responsibility for controlling their dogs whilst out enjoying the countryside.
“You think your dog is ‘just playing’ with the sheep but that could change in an instant and you will have no way to stop the dog when it starts to attack.
“Make sure your dog is on a lead when walking on farmland – even if you can’t see livestock they could just be over the hill or hidden in a dip. It’s not worth the risk, to you, your dog or the livestock.”
Inveraray farmer, Brian Walker has lost more than 32 sheep through attacks in 2010 and 2018 from dogs, as well as having many more seriously injured. In addition, this had a knock-on effect to his business as the flock were breeding sheep with many aborting lambs or unable to carry lambs following the attacks.
Last year a man received just 80 hours community service for allowing his four dogs to seriously injure and kill 17 sheep on Brian’s farm, totalling damages of £4,100.
Brian who attended the launch and lent his support to the campaign, commented:
“Dog attacks on livestock are pretty much a daily occurrence on farms in Scotland. Having suffered multiple attacks, it’s not just the financial impact. When you arrive at a field and see sheep running around with parts of their faces torn off, that will be ingrained in my head for ever. It’s truly devastating.
“My sheep that were attacked were all breeding animals that would have gone on to produce lambs for the next four to five years. That is taken from me within minutes. Can you imagine someone having money taken out of their salary over the next five years by their employer and having no control in the matter?
“Dogs must be under close control and on a lead when around livestock – this is one of the only means of preventing an attack.
“Remember when you are entering land with livestock you are entering someone’s business premises; how would you react if someone came onto your premises and started destroying your possessions? We need dog owners to start taking responsibility and treating farmland and our businesses with respect.”