Campaign safeguarding livestock prior to lamb season
Dog owners in the Stirling area are being warned that their pets could be killed if they are found to be worrying sheep.
A campaign to raise awareness of livestock worrying was launched this week by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, with Police Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and other organisations.
The aim is to urge dog owners who live in or walk their dogs in the countryside to act responsibly and keep their pets under close control.
A dog attacking, chasing or even being at large in a field where sheep are kept can lead to significant injury which often results in the sheep being killed. Such attacks have a financial and emotional impact on the farmer while causing immense suffering to the animals.
The Observer reported last year that a sheep farmer in the Dunblane area had hit out at dog owners who allow their pets to run free among his ewes after four were attacked in one week.
One animal was dragged through a field by its leg by what was described as a brown and white collie and six days later one sheep was found dead and two others injured after a reported alsatian attack.
Farmer Duncan McNicol said last March: “Dog owners seem to think it’s okay to let their animals loose for a run in the fields. There is a public path running through but people still need to keep their dogs on a lead.
“I’ve lost one animal and I’m not sure if the other three will survive. People just don’t understand the harm their pets can cause.”
In a separate incident we reported in July that a lamb had to be destroyed in Killearn after a “horrific” dog attack.
Legislation states that if a dog worries livestock on agricultural land then the person in charge is guilty of a criminal offence.
To protect the livestock the farmer has the right to kill the offending dog while the owner can be charged with an offence, fined up to £1000 and made to pay a compensation order. The local authority can also apply to have the dog destroyed.
Katy Dickson, senior policy officer for Scottish Land and Estates, said: “The impacts of livestock worrying are not always obvious but they can be devastating to the animals, the farmer and the business.
“We urge responsible behaviour from anyone accessing rural areas where livestock may be present and for anyone witnessing such crime to report it.”
The new campaign is being launched to coincide with the start of the spring lambing period as this is when sheep are at greatest risk.
And Callander-based inspector Gerry McMenemy added: “The devastating impacts of a dog attack are evident and cannot be overstated, but significant damage can be caused by a dog simply being in a field. Pregnant ewes can abort their lambs or lambs can be separated from their mothers, causing distress or in some cases malnutrition.
“Our advice to dog owners in rural areas is to ensure their animal is under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says that dogs shouldn’t be taken into fields where there are lambs or other young farm animals.
“I’d urge farmers and anyone else using the countryside to report all instances of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
Farmers and landowners are being encouraged to put signs up on gateways, along with key paths and roads, alerting dog owners to the presence of sheep and lambs.