New legislation has been passed that could see dog owners fined up to £40,000 or jailed for a maximum of a year for livestock worrying.
Holyrood unanimously backed a member’s Bill brought forward by SNP MSP Emma Harper, who said the change would help make a “real difference to farmers”.
She said she wanted the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill to “help to educate everyone about the importance of keeping dogs under control around livestock”.
Ms Harper, herself a dog owner, said: “We have a piece of legislation that will really make a difference to farmers and crofters across Scotland, and will promote access to our braw and bonny countryside.”
As well as increasing the maximum penalties for offences, the Bill also extends the definition of livestock to include farm animals such as alpacas, lamas and buffalo, which are not currently protected by legislation.
Ms Harper, a member for the South Scotland region, said the passing of the Bill marked the culmination of more than four years’ work.
She told Holyrood: “The Bill came about because in my work as an MSP I heard about many horrific incidents of dogs attacking sheep and other livestock.
“In pursuing this, I discovered the current legislation, which is now 68 years old, was seriously outdated and needed to be modernised.”
She said attacks on livestock are currently “under-reported by farmers and crofters”, adding that Police Scotland believe the existing legislation does “not provide sufficient deterrent” to ensure dog owners act responsibly.
Ms Harper continued: “It’s lambing season now, the fields are full of pregnant ewes and new lambs, it is very distressing to see the photos of carnage of dead sheep and lambs from attacks by out of control dogs.
“These tragic incidents dramatically highlight why this Bill is needed.
“This Bill will make a real difference to farmers and will, I hope, help to educate everyone about the importance of keeping dogs under control around livestock.
“I hope we will see year-on-year reductions in incidents of worrying and attack.”