No fall in sheep worrying incidents despite awareness campaigns

Dog attacks can leave animals with traumatic injuries.
Dog attacks can leave animals with traumatic injuries.

The number of sheep worrying incidents across Tayside and Fife has not dropped, despite a police crackdown on the problem.

New figures show there was just one less attack in 2018, compared to the year before.

In 2018, there were 20 incidents across the region, compared to 21 the year before.  In total 109 sheep were killed or injured over the two year period, with a pig and two chickens also being attacked by dogs.

This is despite Police Scotland and partner agencies, such as the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), launching a four-month campaign last spring to encourage dog owners to act responsibly while exercising their animals in rural areas.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said the issue of sheep worrying is actually under-reported.

He said: “Throughout Scotland, regardless of geographical location there is rarely a day that passes without a report of livestock worrying being received by Police Scotland, therefore education is vital.

“SPARC appreciates livestock attack and distress incidents are under-reported, therefore a potential measure of how effective the campaigns are would be to actually anticipate a rise in reporting from those individuals owing livestock.”

Under the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs caught worrying livestock.

In one of the incidents, in April 2017, a husky was killed after entering a field of sheep near Colinsburgh, Fife. The farmer later received death threats online.

Karen Ramoo, Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We want everyone to enjoy our countryside but it is important that dog owners exercise caution when it comes to our rural areas.

“It is vitally important that owners understand the huge distress that is caused by dog attacks on livestock, whether it be the pain these animals suffer or the emotional and financial distress that can be caused to farmers.

“Despite high profile campaigns over many years we are still seeing too many incidents of livestock attacks and trauma in our rural areas, often where dogs are being let off the leash or being left unattended and escaping from homes and gardens.”

The National Farmers Union Scotland last month launched another campaign to raise awareness of the dangers dogs and their faeces pose to livestock.

Vice President Martin Kennedy commented: “We launched a 12-month campaign in February to tackle this very issue and educate dog owners about their responsibilities. It is clear that the industry can no longer tolerate the problem of dog owners who do not control their dogs on farmland.

“Many people underestimate the damage dogs can do to livestock – whether that is attacking them when being off a lead or causing them to contract dangerous diseases through their poo – we need dog owners to take responsibility for controlling their dogs whilst out enjoying the countryside.”