UK: Llamas, emus, enclosed deers, and donkeys to be more protected from dogs
Livestock worrying is when a dog attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land or is at large in a field with sheep, which can result in significant injury or suffering and in the worst cases, death of the animals involved. This also has devastating consequences for livestock keepers, causing personal distress as well as significant financial costs.
Improved powers will enable the police to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further incidents. The measures include:
• Increasing the scope of livestock species and locations covered by the law, such as llamas, emus, enclosed deer, and donkeys. New locations will include roads and paths as long as the livestock have not strayed into a road.
• Increasing powers for the police to seize dogs after particularly serious incidents, if there is a reason to believe that dog might pose an ongoing risk to livestock. Currently, the police can only seize a dog for the purpose of identifying the owner, and it has to be returned to the owner once they have been identified.
• A new power to take samples from livestock and dogs suspected of an offence, which will help the police investigate these crimes. At present, most cases of livestock worrying don’t end up in prosecution due to a lack of evidence.
• Modifying powers of entry, meaning that police can enter a premises to identify and/or seize a dog or any items they believe to be evidence of an offence. Making dog control, disqualification and destruction orders available to the courts upon a conviction for the offence.
Although it is already a specific offence to allow a dog to worry livestock, with a maximum fine of £1,000, these proposed reforms will address current enforcement challenges and modernise the legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
Since the implementation of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act in 1953 the number of livestock in England and Wales has doubled and there has also been an increase in dog ownership and visits to the countryside.
National Sheep Association Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: "The NSA Sheep worrying survey 2021 highlighted the continued increase year on year of these devastating attacks and underlined the significant emotional cost experienced by farmers. Due to the pandemic there are more people with more time to walk dogs than in the past and dog ownership has increased markedly – all of which have added to an increased threat to livestock and livelihoods." ■