Fines rise to £40k for dog attacks on farmed animals

Under recently updated legislation fines up to £40,000 backed up by prison sentences will be faced by dog owners who let their pets worry, kill or injure farmed animals.

And a new campaign, with the slogan ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’, was launched yesterday to educate dog owners about the new regulations and new powers which have been made available to report owners of dogs which attack livestock.

SPARC, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, launched the Livestock Attack and Distress campaign in the Pentland Hills Regional Park, near Balerno, a popular location for dog walking which has suffered a number of attacks on farm animals in recent years.

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The campaign - which comes after figures showed a 50 per cent surge in livestock attacks since dog ownership rocketed during the Covid lockdown - aims to draw attention to the new Dogs Act which came into force in Scotland last November following a successful Members Bill brought by Emma Harper MSP, supported by SPARC, NFU Scotland and livestock owners.

Under the new legislation, camelids such as llamas and alpacas, together with ostriches, game birds and farmed deer will also now be protected – and the inclusion of the word “attack” in the legislation was welcomed as a reflection of the serious nature of such incidents.

The campaign, which will run throughout the lambing season, also aims to raise awareness of the new increased level of fines which owners face if their dog attacks livestock which could see penalties of £40,000 applied – backed by the threat of imprisonment.

The organisation said that the need to communicate the new measures to the dog-owning public had been highlighted in a recent survey commissioned by rural insurer NFU Mutual which showed that only four per cent of dog owners were aware of the level of fines they could face - while less than one quarter knew they could face a prison sentence.

Inspector Alan Dron of Police Scotland said: “Attacks on livestock by dogs is an emotive issue that impacts on rural communities throughout Scotland therefore Police Scotland welcomes this new legislation which can hopefully assist in preventing, reducing and tackling such instances.”

He said the introduction of the new legislation was timely due to the increase in dog ownership experienced during COVID – adding that the aim of the campaign was to educate and raise awareness amongst dog owners, whether new or experienced, that their dog was very much their responsibility.

NFU Scotland Rural Business Policy Adviser Rhianna Montgomery said that with hundreds of incidents across Scotland each year, the protection of livestock was paramount for the union’s members:

“The new Bill gives greatly enhanced powers to tackle this blight. Working closely with other stakeholders, informing and educating the public of good practice when taking access in the countryside with dogs, and the penalties now in place for those who are irresponsible, is imperative in reducing the number of livestock attacks.”

The Mutual’s Mark McBrearty, added that the survey had also shown that 64 per cent of owners let their dogs roam free- further underlining the need for more robust legislation.

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