Farmers welcome tougher laws on control of dogs

Legislation which will see the introduction of tough new penalties of up to £40,000 and the possibility of 12 months imprisonment for dog owners who allow their pets to attack livestock was passed this week with unanimous backing in the Scottish Parliament.

The passing of the landmark Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Scotland) Bill which had been put forward by Emma Harper MSP was hailed by the industry as a hugely important piece of legislation.

The new bill also extends the definition of livestock to include modern types of farmed animals - such as alpacas, llamas and buffalo - which were not farmed when the UK Bill was passed over 67 years ago in 1953.

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“The Bill also provides much greater clarity to Scotland’s legal bodies, police and courts on how to enforce an offence and it tidies up the legislation surrounding attacks on livestock as, at the moment, different legislation can be used and it is often confusing and difficult to understand,” said Harper.

She added that the legislation would now go for royal assent before becoming law in six months time.

Welcoming the move, NFU Scotland said It would significantly increase the powers of investigation and penalties to tackle the ongoing blight of dog attacks on livestock and dog fouling.

“With dog attacks on livestock occurring daily, and irresponsible dog ownership persisting, I thank Emma Harper MSP for her tireless efforts in bringing forward this landmark Bill to address this,” said NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy

“As someone who has seen several dog attacks on my sheep in the past, the pain and suffering of animals is dreadful to see.

"The cost to livestock owners is often high, both financially and emotionally, and such attacks are easily avoidable by dog owners acting responsibly around livestock.

However he stressed that once the new bill came into effect later this year, enforcement would be the key.

“The stronger penalties must act as a better deterrent and when paired with the investigative powers granted by the Bill, the number of prosecutions of those dog owners responsible for allowing livestock attacks to happen must increase,” added Kennedy.

"With the issue continuing to blight the countryside, this will be a significant step forward.”

He said that the union and other bodies has spent considerable time, effort and resources trying to tackle the problem and while raising awareness had helped the need for stronger legislation had become clear.

Also welcoming the passing of the bill, Jason Rust, legal adviser with Scottish Land & Estates Legal, said that alongside government and police, rural organisations would continue to raise awareness to ensure dogs are kept on a short leash when around livestock.

“The effects of livestock worrying on farmers cannot be underestimated – attacks on sheep and other livestock by dogs not only has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers when their animals are killed or injured, but also has an effect on the animals themselves, their productivity and welfare.”

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