Police Scotland and rural bodies launched a new campaign, Your Dog – Your Responsibility, to highlight the increased penalties for those found guilty of letting their dogs worry livestock.
The campaign from the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) – whose membership includes Police Scotland, farming union NFU Scotland, and rural insurer NFU Mutual – follows new legislation which increases the penalties for dog owners who let their pets worry, kill or injure farmed animals.
The new legislation, introduced through a member’s Bill brought forward by SNP MSP Emma Harper, increase penalties for owners who let their dogs attack livestock to a maximum fine of £40,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
It also extends the legislation to cover camelids, such as alpacas and llamas, as well as ostriches, game birds and farmed deer.
Police Scotland’s national rural crime co-ordinator, Inspector Alan Dron, said the campaign was being launched to raise awareness of the new legislation among dog owners – both new and experienced.
Speaking from the launch of the campaign at the Pentland Hills Regional Park, near Balerno on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Inspector Dron said: “The penalty before was £1,000 but now it’s up to £40,000 and/or imprisonment.
“The whole point of that is to act as a deterrent and to hopefully try to show the gravity of a livestock attack and make people think it is your dog so it’s your responsibility.”
He advised farmers, crofters and anyone who keeps livestock to try and apply a bit of common sense when dealing with people walking their dogs in the countryside.
“Be aware that their a lot more new people into the outdoors – educate them and try and put signage up, but only when appropriate,” added Inspector Dron.
He encouraged any farmers who witnesses a dog chasing their livestock to report it to Police Scotland, either by telephone on 999 for an ongoing incident or 101 for an incident that has already happened, or by email.
NFU Scotland’s rural business policy adviser, Rhianna Montgomery, said hundreds of livestock worrying incidents happened on farms and crofts across Scotland every year.
She said: “Working closely with other stakeholders, informing and educating the public of good practice when taking access in the countryside with dogs, and the penalties now in place for those who are irresponsible, is imperative in reducing the number of livestock attacks.”
NFU Mutual’s regional manager for Scotland, Mark McBrearty, said the insurer had experienced an increase in claims for livestock attacks by dogs since the start of the Covid pandemic.
He said: “The new legislation is a huge step forward as it means farmers and police are able to trace offending dogs’ owners and impose serious penalties.
“We’re supporting the Your Dog – Your Responsibility – campaign to spread the message about the new law and encourage irresponsible dog owners to control their pets.”
The campaign will run throughout the lambing season when ewes and lambs are most vulnerable to attacks, before running again in the autumn.