Letter: Open letter to dog owners

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Sir,

While responsible dog owners take care to ensure their dogs are under control at all times, there are still a number who do not – and seem unaware of the potential consequences of their actions.

There has been a disturbing rise in the number of sheep and other livestock attacks, and we are hoping to enlist your help in raising awareness of dog ‘worrying’ which will, in turn, assist the authorities, farmers and land-users.

If a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land the owner, or person in charge of the animal at the time, is guilty of a criminal offence.

Section 1 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 defines ‘worrying’ as:

  • Attacking livestock
  • Chasing sheep in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or abortion or diminution in produce.
  • Being at large, not otherwise under close control or on a lead, in a field or enclosure where there are sheep.

Such incidents cause distress to the animals and often lead to them being injured and/or killed. To protect their livestock the farmer, or a properly designated person, has the right to shoot the offending dogs.

If a dog is found to have been out of control during investigation into livestock attacks/distress incidents, a Dog Control Notice may be issued by Argyll and Bute Council.

This will contain mandatory conditions to ensure that the dog is not able to repeat its behaviour. If these are breached, sanctions can include the dog being destroyed and the owner being taken to court. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 the owner and person in charge of the dog can be charged with an offence and, if convicted, fined up to £1,000 and made to pay a compensation order.

Attacks on livestock are entirely preventable, and as a responsible dog owner you should always follow the guidelines below:

  • Ensure your dog is on a short lead or under proper control at all times when in the countryside. All dogs have a natural instinct to chase and this is often enough for livestock to become distressed and injured.
  • Do not let your dog roam freely without supervision. If they are kept outside, ensure the area is properly secured and you are checking your dog regularly.
  • Do not take your dog into a field where there are lambs, calves or other young farm animals. Be particularly aware of cattle, as they can react aggressively and attack.

Locally Police Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council, SSPCA, NFU Scotland and other private animal services are working together to prevent further attacks on livestock.

We ask you to pass any concerns or reports to Argyll and Bute Council or the police, who will investigate the matter.

Further information can be obtained from:

  • PC Ben Rusden, community officer – email Benjamin.rusden@scotland.pnn.police.uk or phone 101.
  • Graham Hatton, Argyll and Bute Council environmental enforcement officer – email Graham.Hatton@argyll-bute.gov.uk or phone 07827 309630
  • Lucy Sumsion, NFU Scotland regional manager – email lucy.sumsion@nfus.org.uk – phone 07787 434104

On behalf of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime and Argyll and Bute Council.