Livestock Worrying – “Your Dog – Your Responsibility”

Enjoying the outdoors with your dog can be a fantastic experience but it’s important to remember to explore responsibly. Many people live, work and day-trip in the countryside so there are many things to think about when looking after your pet in these areas. A vital one is interactions with farm animals and wildlife. This week our guest blog comes from Police Scotland National Rural Crime Co-ordinator, Alan Dron, who discusses the issues dogs can cause when not kept under control and away from livestock. 

Scottish blackface lambs ©Mark Hicken/Scottish Viewpoint

Scottish blackface lambs
©Mark Hicken/Scottish Viewpoint

Throughout Scotland, regardless of geographical location there is rarely a day passes without a report of livestock worrying being received by Police Scotland.

At the start of January 2019, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) launched their latest campaign, “Your Dog – Your Responsibility”.  This five-month multi-agency campaign aims to highlight:

  • the reality of livestock attacks and distress caused primarily by dogs,
  • ensure dog owners understand the distressing and emotive nature as well as emotional and financial impacts such incidents can have, not just on farmers but everyone having to deal with the aftermath
  • increasing frequency of attacks on other animals such as horses and animals like camelids which are currently not included under the definition of ‘livestock’ such as alpacas and llamas

Comprising of 16 organisations and bodies tackling livestock attacks is an important issue and remains a priority for SPARC.

SPARC comprises of the Scottish Government, Scottish Land & Estates, Crown Office + Procurator Fiscal Service, NFU Mutual, NFU(S), Association of Young Farmers Clubs, Forestry Commission, Confor,‎ Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Community Safety Network, Scottish Business Resilience Centre, Zero Waste Scotland, Neighbourhood Watch, Food Standards Scotland, British Horse Society + Police ScotlandThe target campaign audience is primarily dog owners living, working or enjoying the rural communities and environments.  Many dogs are left to their own devices during the day, allowing them to roam free without supervision while some owners take their dogs into the countryside for exercise and do not have them under proper control. Regardless of whether a dog has been let off a lead and does not obeyed commands or through the increasing number of dogs left alone at home or in gardens then escaping, owners are reminded that they must take responsibility for the actions of their dog. Further work is still required highlighting, not just the message about an owner or person responsible keeping a dog on a lead if there is livestock nearby, but a more general awareness regarding responsible dog ownership, both in the home and when outside.

©John MacTavish / Scottish Viewpoint

Springer Spaniel in Highlands of Scotland.
©John MacTavish / Scottish Viewpoint

Coupled with the use of stronger language and messaging, for the first time a physical launch was held at Penicuik House, Penicuik Estate, Mid Lothian to maximise opportunities for TV, Radio, written and social media press resulting in excellent national and local coverage.  Keeping this important issue in the public’s mind is vital if longer term behavioural change is to be achieved. Over the last few months, local events to raise awareness on the issue have also taken place throughout Scotland with the last main event on the 2nd of May at Conic Hill, Balmaha, within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

It is hoped by having a harder-hitting message that reaches communities throughout Scotland the campaign will encourage farmers and landowners to report all instances of attacks and distress to their animals. This also complements work undertaken by rural organisations, NFU Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage and adds to the debate on livestock worrying ahead of the proposed Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill consultation submitted by Emma Harper MSP.

Cattle near Peebles ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Cattle near Peebles
©Lorne Gill/SNH

If you need to contact your local Police Scotland division about sheep worrying or a livestock attack find a Police Scotland Rural Division Leads

To find out more about how you can #TakeTheLead and help keep both pets and farm animals safe on the Police Scotland website as well as our Scottish Outdoor Access Code resources for dog walkers.

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