Jail sentences of up to six months for owners of dogs attacking livestock are among tough new measures being considered to protect farm animals.
Under proposed new legislation, stiffer penalties could be introduced in cases of livestock worrying including imprisonment of dog owners for up to six months and a ban on owning dogs.
In addition, under the Proposed Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill, police could be given the power to seize a dog for the purposes of taking it to a vet as part of evidence gathering.
The maximum penalty under current legislation is a £1,000 fine.
The consultation, which ends on May 15, was launched by SNP MSP Emma Harper, who has the backing of organisations including NFU Scotland, the Scottish SPCA, and Police Scotland in calling for the laws protecting livestock to be tightened up.
Last year, Police Scotland received 338 reports of attacks on livestock.
And Crown Office statistics reveal that offences under the current livestock protection legislation have more than doubled since 2008.
Clare Slipper, political affairs manager of NFU Scotland, added: “Despite a vast amount of awareness raising, livestock worrying continues to blight Scottish farmers and crofters. Dogs themselves are not to blame, it is their irresponsible owners who need to wake up and understand the devastation this is causing.
“We urge as many people as possible to fill out the consultation and give their views on an issue that continues to blight Scottish agriculture.”
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Our animal helpline, rescue officers and inspectors are regularly contacted regarding livestock attacks and we welcome the opportunity this consultation creates to reduce these potentially devastating incidents.
“We encourage everyone to take part in this consultation. It’s up to everyone who enjoys the countryside to be a responsible citizen and to be fully aware of their impact on the surrounding environment.”
David Torrance, SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy, urged the public to take part in the consultation on the proposed Bill, which closes on May 15.
He said: “The rise in the number of dogs attacking livestock, particularly sheep, in the past decade is a serious concern and so I would ask my constituents in Kirkcaldy to take part in this public consultation and make their views known.
“The consequences of a dog attack on livestock can be devastating to a farmer both financially and emotionally, while it is a very serious animal welfare issue for the livestock involved.
“At this time of year sheep will be pregnant and even the chasing of a sheep by a dog, without any physical contact taking place, can be so stressful for the ewe that it can abort the lambs it is carrying.
“I would ask constituents to ensure that when walking dogs near livestock to keep their dog on a lead to prevent further attacks.”