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On the beat: Country dog walkers urged to be responsible

PC Mike Urquhart.
PC Mike Urquhart.

For almost two years, large numbers of people in Scotland have chosen a ‘staycation’ rather than going abroad.

As a result, our countryside is busier than ever. Many people have chosen to get a dog for the first time and may not be aware of their responsibilities when out for walks.

A campaign to protect Scotland’s livestock has been launched following new legislation which protects animals from dog attacks through a range of measures including updating the livestock definition, fines of up to £40,000 and potential prison sentences for owners who let their pets worry, kill or injure farmed animals.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force on 5 November 2021.

The campaign will run through the lambing season, when sheep and lambs are most vulnerable to attacks and will be run again in the autumn.

As a Crime Reduction Officer, I have seen that the impacts of livestock worrying can be devastating for rural communities.

Such incidents not only cause obvious suffering to sheep and cattle, they have a financial and emotional impact on farmers and their families and cause significant upset.

Farmers put a lot of work into nurturing their sheep and cattle, taking real pride in their work. Many animals are left with terrible injuries following attacks and if they survive can be difficult to handle due to their fear of dogs.

Attacks by dogs are not inevitable and are down to the irresponsible behaviour of their owners.

We all enjoy spending time in our rural areas, but we do ask that people remember that all farms are working environments and must be respected by everyone accessing them.

‘Farmers can legitimately shoot any dog that is worrying livestock’

Please don’t underestimate your dog’s behaviour, and remember that sometimes chasing sheep or cattle is seen as a type of game by many dogs. However, all too often, this can turn into a nightmare for the livestock, the farmers as well as yourself and your dog.

Please stay safe, be responsible and keep your dog under close control.

You only have the right to be on most land if you act responsibly. There is a real need to inform dog owners about the risks all dogs can pose to sheep especially in springtime when ewes are heavily pregnant.

Farmers can legitimately shoot any dog that is worrying livestock as well as owners having destruction orders placed on dogs by the courts.

Keep your dog on a short lead if you are in an area where there are livestock such as cows, sheep or horses.

Wherever possible it is best to avoid going near areas where there are sheep. Dogs can cause unnecessary worry that may contribute to the premature death of sheep as well as any unborn lambs.

Cows can be frightened by dogs and may react aggressively or panic and be dangerous to the dog owner and the dog.’

Further information regarding outdoor access and what it means for you and your dog can be found here.

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