Danger alert to dog owners
Police have launched a month-long campaign to urge dog owners to keep their pets on leads to prevent sheep worrying.
The campaign is highlighting the devastating effects of livestock worrying and coincides with a rise in sheep attacks by dogs during November when sheep are brought down to low-lying pasture where more people exercise their dogs or dogs are allowed to roam free.
The move comes just days after a farmer caught a loose dog worrying sheep on a farm near Blairgowrie.
Dogs chasing sheep can cause serious damage or injury. Even if the dog does not catch them, the stress caused can kill sheep. In some circumstances farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs if they are endangering their livestock.
The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, which includes Police Scotland, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates, is working with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Kennel Club and the National Sheep Association (Scotland) to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.
Inspector Jane Donaldson said: “Rural dog owners and those who choose to exercise their dogs in the countryside must ensure they are under control at all times and try to avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing.
“The worrying of sheep and other livestock by dogs not only has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers when their animals are killed or injured but also has an effect on the animals themselves, their productivity and welfare.
“We are encouraging farmers and landowners to engage with dog walkers and to help keep them informed by putting up signs on gateways and on key roads and paths alerting them to the presence of sheep and other livestock in their fields and suggesting alternative routes.”
Gemma Cooper from NFU Scotland said: “At this time of year there is an increased likelihood of dog walkers in particular coming into contact with sheep and other livestock.
“Livestock worrying in any form is unacceptable and we cannot shy away from the fact that there have been a number of unfortunate instances where dogs caught in the process of worrying livestock have been shot by farmers.
“The public must ensure that dogs in the countryside are kept on a lead or under close control and must never be allowed to worry livestock.
“Failure to do this can result in devastating consequences for both the farmer and the dog owner.
“We are also aware of a number of recent cases where sanctions handed to irresponsible dog owners have been increasingly hefty and this is something NFUS will continue to press for.”
Caroline Kisko from the Kennel Club said: “Research shows the main cause of sheep worrying is people 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 support local councils in targeting the irresponsible minority at an early stage using dog control notices.”
Police have asked that anyone who sees livestock worrying calls them on 101.