Scottish Borders farmers speak on laws to punish dog attacks on livestock

New laws could mean pet owners will face huge fines or prison if their dog worries, injures or attacks livestock.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force in November last year, following a successful members bill from Emma Harper, MSP, supported by several rural organisations following continued attacks on farm animals by out-of-control dogs.

This new law includes provision to fine the owners of dogs that attack livestock up to £40,000 or to apply a jail sentence.

SPARC - the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime - launched the Livestock Attack and Distress campaign this week with the slogan: ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’ to educate dog owners about the new legislation and the new powers to report owners of pets which attack livestock.

Under the new legislation, species like llamas and alpacas, together with ostriches, game birds and farmed deer are now protected plus the inclusion of the word “attack” has been welcomed as this clearly reflects the more serious aspect of such an incident. 

The campaign will run through the lambing season, when sheep and lambs are most vulnerable to attacks and will be then run again in the autumn.

A recent survey by rural insurer NFU Mutual showed only four per cent of people surveyed knew they could now be fined up to £40,000 if their dog attacked livestock and only 22% knew they could be sent to prison if their dog attacked livestock.

NFU Mutual claims figures show that the UK cost of dog attacks on livestock rose by 50% in the first quarter of 2021 (compared to the same period the previous year) as the pandemic led to a surge in dog ownership and countryside visits.

Inspector Alan Dron, Police Scotland National Rural Crime Co-ordinator 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.

“Its introduction is timely given the increase in dog ownership experienced during Covid and the aim of the campaign is designed to educate and raise awareness amongst dog owners, whether new or experienced, that their dog is very much their responsibility.”