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How to avoid a £40,000 fine when walking your dog this Easter

Dog owners could be fined up to £40,000 if their pet attacks or chases livestock.
Dog owners could be fined up to £40,000 if their pet attacks or chases livestock.

Farming industry leaders are reminding members of the public they could be fined up to £40,000 if they let their dog chase or attack livestock.

They are urging people out enjoying the countryside this Easter to take care and to keep their dogs under control, otherwise they could face hefty fines.

New legislation has been introduced to tackle livestock worrying and dog owners who let their pets worry farm animals face a fine of up to £40,000 and/or 12 months in prison.

Earlier this week the National Sheep Association (NSA) said UK sheep farmers had experienced an increase in dog attacks on their flocks in the past three years.

Results from the association’s latest sheep worrying by dogs survey reveal 75% of farmers believe incidents have increased since 2019, with farmers reporting an increase in the number of sheep killed by dogs in the past year.

More than two-thirds of sheep farmers reported production losses as a result of dog attacks on their sheep.

The survey also revealed that 67% of farmers reported production losses and/or miscarriage in pregnant sheep as a direct result of dog attacks, and the average annual cost of livestock worrying incidents to a farm was £1,232.

NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker, urged dog owners to take responsibility for their pets.

“The greatest impact felt for many farmers as a result of sheep worrying by dogs is the stress, anger and anxiety that is experienced as a result of attacks and the fear they will happen again,” said Mr Stocker.

He said an attack on sheep can result in a full year’s hard work being undone in a matter of minutes.

“Of course, the financial impact must not be ignored though,” added Mr Stocker.

“At this time of spiralling costs in all areas continued losses due to sheep worrying are not acceptable and could easily be prevented by dog owners simply taking responsibility and keeping their dogs on a lead when walking nearby sheep.”

Phil Stocker, chief executive, National Sheep Association.

NatureScot encouraged dog owners to refer to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code for guidance on how to walk responsibly with their pets in the countryside.

The nature agency’s recreation and access manager, Mark Wrightham, said: “We want everyone to enjoy visiting Scotland’s outdoors, but many people, particularly new dog owners, may not be aware of their responsibilities or how their actions can affect local farming or crofting communities.

“This is particularly important in light of the new legislation that increases penalties and enforcement powers when out of control dogs are allowed to attack livestock.”

He urged all dog walkers to take extra caution at this time of year when lambing is in full swing on many farms and crofts.

Dog walkers are asked to avoid farm animals, where possible.

Mr Wrightham’s key points for dog walkers this Easter are:

  • Do not allow your dog to approach animals or people uninvited (in open country, it may not be obvious when animals are around)
  • Where possible avoid animals – release your dog if threatened by cattle and don’t linger if wildlife is disturbed by your presence
  • Always keep your dog in sight and under control – if in doubt use a lead
  • Don’t take your dog into fields of vegetables and fruit unless there is a clear path
    Always bag and bin dog poo – take it home when bins aren’t available.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code can be viewed online at www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot

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