Dog attacks on livestock remain a major concern for farmers and crofters despite a 13% reduction in the number of livestock worrying incidents reported to police last year.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual says an industry-wide campaign to encourage responsible dog ownership has helped alleviate the problem. However, “horrific incidents” continue to occur on farms and crofts across Scotland.
“With more people walking in the countryside as Covid restrictions continue, and an increase in dog ownership, we have seen many more brutal attacks resulting in large numbers of sheep being killed and a trail of horrific injuries,” said Mark McBrearty, NFU Mutual regional manager for Scotland.
“It’s vital that dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs on a lead and under control whenever there is a possibility livestock are nearby.”
He said an NFU Mutual survey of more than 1,200 dog owners found 64% are letting their pets roam free in the countryside despite half saying their dog doesn’t always come back when called.
The survey also found 42% of dog owners have been walking their pets more often in the countryside during the pandemic, and only 40% accept their pet could cause the injury or death of a farm animal.
Inspector Alan Dron, national rural crime co-ordinator for Police Scotland, said: “Too many instances of dogs attacking or worrying livestock still occur and whilst we want everyone to enjoy our countryside, it is important that dog owners or those in charge exercise greater caution when accessing rural areas, particularly if livestock are present.”
NFU Scotland said it hoped new legislation, currently being considered by MSPs, would help tackle the problem by introducing stricter penalties for the owners of dogs which attack livestock.
NFUS head of policy Gemma Cooper said signs encouraging people to keep their dogs on leads around livestock, produced in partnership with NFU Mutual, were available from the union.