Numbers of dog attacks on livestock are growing – should the Dangerous Dogs Act be updated?
A latest report from the NFU rural insurance company has stated that livestock worrying by dogs has increased to record levels. In the period between 2015 and 2018, livestock worth 3.5 million pounds were attacked by dogs.
The situation is of such a concern that NFU mutual are calling upon the Government to update the Dangerous Dogs Act to address these alarming statistics. Holidays4Dogs certainly agrees that, bearing these figures in mind, there would certainly seem to be an urgent need for more rigorous legislation to protect our farming communities.
The company, which is part of the Livestock Worrying Police Working Group, wants to see higher fines and restrictions on where dogs can be let off the lead.
Under current law, police are all too often unable to take successful legal action against owners who allow their dogs to worry and attack sheep and other farm animals.
The 1953 Dogs Act (protection of livestock) presently does not include certain types of livestock such as llamas and penalties are limited to a fine of 1,000 pounds. In addition, prosecution is made more difficult if the owner of the dog is not present at the time of the attack.
The NFU want to see the law updated to the extent it would allow loose dogs to be seized by the police, identified and traced back to their owners.
Research conducted by NFU found that 80% of dog owners walked their dogs in the countryside, with 60% of those allowing their dog off the lead. 7% of dog owners admitted that their dogs had chased livestock in the past, but this figure in reality is likely to be higher.
For small scale farmers in particular, the impact of livestock worrying is hugely detrimental and while insurance may cover some costs of replacing animals, there is potentially an impact on future breeding programmes that can take a number of years to rectify.
For dog owners, it is vitally important to keep your dog on the lead around livestock – no matter how well trained you think your dog might be. The mere presence of a dog can be enough to spook pregnant ewes, for instance, and the stress can often induce premature birth or abortion. The situation can be worse if there are two or more dogs involved in areas where there are busy footpaths.
Farmers are advised by the NFU to keep livestock away from public footpaths, but this is not always practical. Many farmers also put up signs to let walkers know that their dogs must be kept on a lead and it is important for dog owners to strictly adhere to this.
Livestock worrying is distressing for all concerned but is also easily avoidable by simply keeping your dog on a short lead, even if you are some distance away from sheep or other farm animals. If the law is updated, as the NFU and others would like to see, penalties for allowing your dog to worry livestock could be much higher. The financial implications are not the only factor to consider however – sheep worrying is upsetting enough for farmers, but also very distressing for dog owners to find that their family pet is capable of injuring or even killing farm animals. Ensure this never happens to you and keep your dog under proper control on a short lead whenever you are near livestock of any kind.
• Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept.
• Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack and kill farm animals.
• Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police.
• Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs.
• Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby.