Livestock Worrying Explained
By Barry Reilly
Irvine Beat FM (Lunchtime Presenter)
Why Is This Campaign Is Being Launched In Spring
As we head into Spring, there is an “improving picture” in our weather as expected. With this, many of us are spending more time outdoors. Dog owners are particularly pleased to be able to get out with our dogs for longer walks at this time of year, as the worst of the winter weather seems to be behind us.
With milder, drier weather, what a great time to take our dogs out to the countryside to let them enjoy a good run.
Meanwhile In The Countryside
Meanwhile, in rural areas, Spring is approaching, which means it’s lambing season.
Combine these two and we are faced with a very serious problem, known as “Livestock Worrying”.
Awareness Campaign Launched
North Ayrshire Police, along with their partners North Ayrshire Council and NFU (National Farmers Union of Scotland) have launched their campaign this week to raise awareness to this issue.
To discuss “Livestock Worrying”, PC Johnson, North Ayrshire’s Crime Prevention & Interventions officer joined me (on Thursday 7/3/19) in the studio to tell us about this issue and to give advice to dog owners who are thinking of taking their dogs out walking in rural areas. Here are some of the main points that PC Johnson answered for us on the radio.
What Is Livestock Worrying?
Dogs being allowed to run free (without a lead) in rural areas can cause worry or even harm to sheep and other livestock. Sheep can become so anxious about the presence of a dog that they can actually suffer a heart attack. Therefore the dog may not even have any intention of causing actual harm to the sheep, simply the presence of an unknown dog can cause a sheep serious problems.
Every dog has a natural instinct to chase sheep. They can spot them from a distance and their natural instinct will set in.
Even the friendliest of pet dogs has this natural instinct to chase sheep. The sheep doesn’t have to be caught or even bitten by a dog to cause it harm. Sheep can become so worried around dogs that they can actually die. It is common occurrence for pregnant sheep to miscarry as a result of worrying.
If a dog runs into a field and the flock get split up, young lambs and ewes often die of starvation and hypothermia.
If a sheep does get bitten by a dog, even if the sheep survives the bite, the sheep will likely have to be put down later.
What Are The Legalities With Livestock Worrying?
Sheep are assets to a farmer and are valuable. Some (thoroughbred) sheep can be worth thousands of pounds. The sheep are the farmer’s livelihood. The farmer is permitted by law to protect his sheep. A farmer has the right to shoot and kill your dog if your dog enters an area where it could cause worry or harm to his sheep.
Dogs – Protection of Livestock Act 1953
Actual wording of the: Dogs – Protection of Livestock Act 1953, “if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The Act considers sheep worrying to include attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury suffering, abortion or loss of produce or being at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep”.
Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003
Within the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, access rights do not allow members of the public on to land with a dog which is not under proper control.
Advice For Dog Owners In Rural Areas
Be responsible. Even the friendliest, most harmless dogs have a natural instinct to chase towards sheep. Whether your dog’s intention is to attack a sheep or has an inquisitive nature to play, this can cause real worry to the sheep and the consequential results can be fatal.
Enjoy the countryside as the weather improves, but be aware of the consequences and legalities of letting your dog off the lead.
When walking through rural areas, the chances are that you will enter agricultural areas.
Never let your dog out of sight.
If you are unfamiliar with a particular countryside location, always assume that there will be sheep nearby. All dogs have the natural abilities, senses and instincts to detect the presence of sheep from much further away than you can (as a human).
“Prevention is better than cure”
Our thanks to PC Johnson for coming in to discuss the very serious issue of livestock worrying and to raise awareness to this problem as a form of prevention.
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