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Livestock worrying incidents – do you know your rights?

 Farmers and land owners are being reminded of their rights and responsibilites in relation to livestock worrying. (Pic: Orkney Photographic)

The Orkney branch of NFU Scotland Orkney has issued a reminder to farmers and landowners of their rights and responsibilities in relation to livestock worrying. They are also being reminded that there is local support available to them should they find themselves to be the victims of the issue.

NFU Scotland Orkney’s regional policy advisor Kerry Omand said: “If anyone finds themselves to be in this unfortunate position there are key steps that they need to take and responsibilities that livestock owners have. I believe that the public are very aware of their rights and responsibilities as dog owners, and our members need to have the same knowledge and confidence in dealing with these situations.”

The legislation relating to this is the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and “worrying” is defined as; attacking livestock, chasing livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or abortion as well as being at large, not otherwise under close control or on a lead, in a field or enclosure where there are livestock.

Kerry highlighted: “There is often an assumption that an attack or incident must be physical for it to be taken seriously, and that is simply not the case as significant harm can be caused to animals without any direct contact occurring.”

If farmers come across an incident of livestock worrying they should contact the police on 999 if the incident is ongoing, or dial 101 to report the incident, try to contain the dog(s) if possible and gather their livestock for treatment and/or retain any dead livestock as evidence. Finally, a dog must only be shot as a last resort if they cannot be contained and this should be reported to the police within 24 hours.

Kerry added: “I completely empathise with members who find themselves in this situation, having been the victim of livestock worrying myself. This was a few years ago now, but from that experience I would encourage farmers to gather evidence if they can, in the form of photos or videos of the incident occurring. That may seem like an unnatural thing to do when you are wanting to put an end to the incident as quickly as possible, but it also crucial to have this evidence to hand.”

Mark Evans, animal welfare officer with Orkney Islands Council wants to remind dog owners to ensure that their dogs are always under control and avoid going into fields where livestock are grazing.

He said“If a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land then the owner and or the person in charge of the dog, is guilty of a criminal offence.”

Mark reiterates; “Farmers should make every effort to catch the dog if it is worrying livestock and it is only as a last resort to shoot the dog if it is not able to be caught. This needs to be reported to the Police and to the Councils Trading Standards Service.”

Orkney preventions and interventions officer with Police Scotland, Constable Simon Hay said: “The worrying of livestock can have devastating consequences for farm animals and has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers and their businesses.

“The advice to dog owners or anyone walking and exercising their dogs in the countryside is to ensure they are under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says dogs should not be taken into fields where there are lambs or other young farm animals.

“Police Scotland will enforce the existing legislation robustly, ensuring all reported cases of sheep worrying are thoroughly investigated and offenders reported to the Procurator Fiscal. 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.”

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