A Police Scotland co-ordinated rural crime campaign has seen livestock worrying drop by nearly 40 per cent during the spring lambing season, compared to last year.
The three-month campaign saw 43 incidents reported, with all but two cases involving sheep.
Like last year, most incidents involved only one dog; in more than half of all cases (53%) in 2017, the offending dog was local to the area and was either roaming free or otherwise not under proper control.
Sheep are almost always the animals affected, in all but two of the 43 recorded incidents, and in 86% of cases, livestock was either injured or died as a result of the incident.
This campaign, the third since Spring 2016, has also led to an increase in prosecutions with almost three times as many people convicted of livestock worrying offences in 2015 and 2016 than in 2014 and direct measure penalties (fiscal fine and compensation) increasing threefold in 2016 compared to 2015.
Inspector Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland Rural Crime Co-ordinator said: “I am encouraged with this reduction in livestock worrying crimes compared to the same period last year and grateful for the support of our partners, in particular NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Kennel Club to raise awareness of this crime, encourage farmers to report incidents and to educate dog owners.”
“The effects of livestock worrying on farmers cannot be underestimated – the loss of any animals will devastate a farmer, and can also have a significant financial impact. These crimes are wholly preventable and a key part of this campaign has been to educate dog owners on their responsibilities whether they live in rural areas or when they’re walking or exercising their animals in the countryside and by working with partners we hope the message is being taken on board and reflected in the reduction in the number of cases of livestock worrying which have been reported to Police Scotland.”
“Dog owners living near farmland should never let their dog out unaccompanied and must ensure that their garden is secure. Anyone exercising their dogs in the countryside should keep them under proper control at all times went out walking, never let their dogs enter fields where livestock is grazing and to adhere, at all times, to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Following these simple rules will keep both dogs and livestock safe and ensure everyone can enjoy the countryside.”
Farmers are being encouraged to help walkers by indicating alternative routes avoiding enclosures with livestock report and to report all incidents of livestock worrying to Police Scotland, including occasions where there has been a ‘near-miss’.
Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland Vice President and livestock farmer in Perthshire, commented: “We welcome these figures following the three-month campaign earlier this year, and we are pleased that Police Scotland is giving such focus to livestock worrying.
“Whilst these figures are encouraging, the issue of livestock worrying remains severe for many of our members across Scotland.
“NFU Scotland continues to believe that many instances are unreported, and we would urge all farmers and crofters to ensure that they report each and every attack to ensure that Police Scotland has an accurate picture of this problem, and so that we can continue to work together to find solutions.
“For those attending the Royal Highland Show 22-25 June and agricultural shows this summer, we now have an abundance of signs available for NFU Scotland members funded by NFU Mutual ideal for farm gates and posts.
“We would remind dog walkers that farmers have the right to shoot a dog caught worrying livestock, and we unfortunately we have seen a few instances of this occurring recently.”
Karen Ramoo, Policy Officer at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “This is a welcome drop in the number of livestock worrying incidents and reflects the positive effect that Police Scotland and rural organisations can have in targeting this problem.
“There is a need to maintain momentum, however, as we seek to reduce the number of incidents year on year. Scottish Land & Estates is launching its Care for the Countryside campaign at the Royal Highland Show – an initiative which reiterates positive messages on responsible dog ownership in rural Scotland. We hope this campaign will play its part in a continuing reduction of livestock worrying incidents.”
Theresa Kewell, Communications Officer, Scottish Natural Heritage, said “It’s very encouraging to see that the number of sheep worrying incidents is dropping, but we are looking forward to this figure reducing to zero in the future. If you’re a dog owner, there’s plenty of guidance and practical advice available at www.jessthedog.org.uk. Every dog owner can help make a difference. If your dog doesn’t have good recall for you, then why not spend some time this summer trying to improve it? Training can be fun, very rewarding and it will mean you’ll have much more confidence walking your dog. ”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “This research again shows that the main cause of sheep worrying is local dog owners repeatedly allowing their dogs to stray. Such irresponsible ownership needlessly puts dogs’ lives at risk, as well as farm animals and wildlife. We encourage the responsible majority of dog owners to report strays and we support local councils in targeting the irresponsible minority at an early stage using Dog Control Notices.”
Anthony McGeehan, Procurator Fiscal Policy and Engagement, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said, “The reduction in offending is welcome. Recognising the continued impact of this type of crime on victims and communities, COPFS will continue to take appropriate prosecutorial action where there is a sufficiency of evidence. The figures demonstrate the value of engagement with NFU Scotland in developing COPFS Agricultural Crime Policy, which includes offences of livestock worrying, and our continued membership of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC)”