The devastating dog attack suffered by 14-year-old Perthshire farmer Archie Downie’s flock of sheep has led to calls for increased protection for Scotland’s farming community.
Tens of thousands of pounds worth of animals have been lost to livestock worrying incidents across Scotland over the past 12 months.
Three dogs have also been shot by farmers in the past month alone in a move that is controversial but an accepted response to animals found preying upon livestock.
The escalating problem has led to claims the farming community is being failed by the Scottish Government.
It has also led to calls for a new public awareness campaign, which Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith believes is needed to get through to the irresponsible pet owners responsible for livestock worrying.
The latest in a series of incidents in Perth and Kinross saw Ardler youngster Archie’s animals attacked — along with those of a neighbouring shepherd.
Archie had saved for years to buy a small flock of sheep in the hope of setting himself on the path to a career as a farmer.
Two dog attacks in the space of 36 hours, however, left him with one badly injured animal and fearing for the young being carried by his ewes.
Jamie Smart, NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Committee Chairman said: “Instances such as Archie’s are frustratingly frequent and highlight both the financial and distressing nature of sheep worrying for farmers.
“NFU Scotland has been working with partner organisations for some time now to raise awareness of this issue, but despite this reported cases continue to rise.
“Many dog owners do not seem to make the connection between their family pet and an ability to cause huge damage to livestock such as sheep.”
Mr Smart added: “We also remind the public that farmers have the right to shoot a dog they find worrying their livestock.
“In the last month alone, NFU Scotland is aware of at least three dogs that have been shot while worrying sheep.
“This is unfortunate and distressing, but can be prevented by ensuring that dogs are kept on a lead and under close control.”
Conservative MSP Liz Smith raised the issue of sheep worrying in parliament last month as she called upon the Scottish Government to take tougher action.
She said: “The increasing number of sheep worrying incidents is hugely concerning and farmers need greater support in order to combat this.
“We need pet owners to be better educated and we need a public awareness campaign that makes your responsibilities clear when out walking your dog.
“The case of Archie Downie demonstrates how important this is.
“Here we have a youngster who wants to pursue a career in farming and has used his own pocket money to assemble a small flock only for it to be attacked by dogs causing possible long term damage to them.
“It is high time that the issue of sheep worrying was dealt with properly.”
Incidents of sheep worrying in Scotland were at their highest for more than a decade during 2016 and have continued as lambing season approaches.
Even then, farming chiefs believe the vast majority of incidents go unreported by farmers.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was working hard, alongside its partners, to tackle rural crime.
“The Scottish Government fully supports the recently launched campaign to raise awareness amongst dog owners on the devastating effects of livestock worrying,” he said.
“We also support Police Scotland in its commitment to enforce the law when dog owners fail to keep their dogs under control.”