A month-long campaign has been launched by Police Scotland to raise awareness among dog owners about the devastating effects of livestock worrying.
It coincides with a rise in sheep attacks by dogs during November, a time when sheep are brought down to low-lying pastures, in areas more accessible by people exercising their dogs or by local dogs that are allowed to roam free.
The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, a multi-agency partnership 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, Police Scotland Rural Crime Co-ordinator, said: “Rural dog owners and those who 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 gates, key roads and paths alerting them to the presence of sheep and other livestock in their fields and suggesting alternative routes,” added Inspector Donaldson.
Farmers and those who use the countryside are urged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
“Police Scotland will robustly enforce the existing legislation, ensuring all reported cases of livestock being attacked by dogs are thoroughly investigated and offenders reported to the Procurator Fiscal,” added Inspector Donaldson.
The Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 provides that a farmer may, in some specific situations, kill or injure a dog if it is worrying livestock.
Gemma Cooper, of NFU Scotland said: “At this time of year there is an increased likelihood of dogs 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.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Research shows the main cause of sheep worrying is local people 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 support local councils in targeting the irresponsible minority at an early stage using Dog Control Notices.”