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Just 4% of dog owners know new laws around sheep worrying – do you?

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Dog owners are being urged to keep their pets away from livestock during this lambing season.

NFU Mutual has carried out new research, which has prompted fears that out-of-control dogs could impact pregnant sheep and endanger both the ewe and lamb.

The study found nearly three-quarters (73%) of dog owners let their pet roam free in the countryside – up from 64% last year.

Almost half of dog owners also admitted their dog doesn’t always come back when called – and just 4% were aware of a new law which means they could be fined up to £40,000 in Scotland if their pets attack livestock.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force in November 2021 in response to a rise in the number of attacks on livestock by dogs.

New law ‘timely’ as number of new dog owners rises during pandemic

After years of campaigning by farmers and police, the law will allow for harsher punishments like fines and even prison sentences.

The research by NFU Mutual found that only 4% of pet owners were aware of the new laws, which included a potential fine of up to £40,000.

Inspector Alan Dron, the police’s rural crime coordinator, said: “Its introduction is timely given the increase in dog ownership experienced during Covid and the aim of the campaign is designed to educate and raise awareness amongst dog owners, whether new or experienced, that their dog is very much their responsibility.”

Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “It’s hard for people to imagine that their affectionate, family pet could injure or kill another animal, and it’s not only physical attacks that can harm livestock.

“There’s a new generation of dog owners whose pandemic puppies are coming of age, and they simply don’t know how their dog is going to behave around livestock.”

As Scotland moves into springtime and with the lambing season well under way, NFU Mutual is urging dog owners to keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go if chased by cattle.

They also advise owners to keep their dogs supervised and not roam in gardens near livestock fields as escaped dogs could attack sheep grazing nearby.

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