Livestock Worrying  – Should Legislation be Updated?


A report from the National Farmers Union rural insurance company has stated that livestock worrying by dogs has increased to record levels. Between 2015 and 2018, livestock worth 3.5 million pounds died as a result of dog attacks. Numbers of dog attacks on livestock are growing. There is definitely a need for more rigorous legislation to protect farming communities and their livestock. Holidays4Dogs investigates. 

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. The company, in association with 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 often unable to pursue successful legal action against owners who allow their dogs to attack sheep and other farm animals.

dog sitting, pet sittingThe NFU want to see the law updated to the extent that dogs found worrying sheep can 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. However, in reality, this figure is likely to be higher.

For small scale farmers, in particular, the impact of livestock worrying is hugely detrimental. While insurance may cover some costs of replacing animals, there is potentially an impact on future breeding programmes which can take a number of years to rectify.

For dog owners, it is vitally important to keep dogs on the lead around livestock. The mere presence of a dog can be enough to spook pregnant ewes, for instance.

The stress can often induce premature birth, or abortion. The situation can be worse if there are two, or more dogs, involved.

Farmers are advised by the NFU to keep livestock away from public footpaths, but this is not always practical.

Livestock worrying is distressing for all concerned. However, it is easily avoidable by simply keeping dogs on a short leads, even when some distance away from livestock. 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. Many are horrified to find their family pet is capable of injuring, or even killing, farm animals. 

Ensure this never happens to you. Keep your dog under proper control on a short lead whenever you are near livestock of any kind.


Keep dogs on a short lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept or, where there is an abundance of wildlife, or nesting birds.

Be aware that, even small lap dogs can attack and frighten livestock.

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.


A report by the National Sheep Association in 2022 confirmed that livestock worrying is still a significant problem for the farming community.

In 2021/22 the Government introduced the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. The bill aims to protect the welfare of animals kept in Britain. This includes the export and import of animals.

One of the welfare issues addressed by the bill is livestock worrying. Under the bill police would have more legislative powers to protect livestock from out of control dogs. Additionally, other animals would be included such as llamas and game birds. The bill is still awaiting a date for the report stage.

Update : – Unfortunately, on May 25th 2023, the Bill was dropped. However, there are a number of welfare organisations which have shown concern for this. These include the Dogs Trust  and the British Veterinary Association.