Famers’ union warns of increase in livestock worrying

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland has told pet owners to keep their animals under control as they exercise them over the Christmas period. 

The warning comes after an increase in dogs worrying livestock in the Lothians over recent weeks. Five such incidents have occurred since the beginning of November in the Penicuik, Roslin and Gorebridge areas.

Farmers are being encouraged by NFU Scotland to report incidents to the police and to register as much detail as possible whenever incidents occur, even when there are “near misses”.

The union said that many members of the public don’t realise that if their dog is found to be worrying livestock, the owner could be prosecuted.

To overcome the issue, NFU Scotland has increased its activity with Police Scotland and is taking part in numerous initiatives to raise awareness with the public.

“It is very disappointing that despite the extensive awareness raising that has taken place in recent months on this issue, a small minority of the public continue to allow their dogs to worry sheep,” commented Kerry Clark, NFU Scotland’s regional manager for Lothians and Borders.

“NFU Scotland strongly supports a robust approach to this issue, including prosecution of irresponsible dog owners. The worrying of livestock by domestic dogs can have a very damaging impact on the livelihoods of farmers, as well as causing significant and unnecessary distress to the animals themselves.

“Anyone walking their dog in the countryside should ensure they are familiar with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and also ensure their dogs are adequately controlled so that they are unable to cause distress or injury to farm animals.”

Sergeant Michele Lindsay from Penicuik Police Station said that worrying is not just when a dog chases or attacks an animal, but can also be when it is in close proximity to livestock. “This can cause sheep to panic and flee, resulting in serious injury or death. As well as the distress and harm caused to the animals, these incidents have both a financial and emotional impact on the farmer that is completely avoidable.

“Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that they are in control of their dogs at all times and should avoid fields with livestock, where possible. Where livestock are unavoidable, dogs should always be kept under close control preferably on a short lead. Remember that even if they are usually very obedient, it’s every dog’s instinct to chase and they don’t understand the impact of this – but you do.”

She said that dog walkers should be prepared to meet livestock whenever they are walking dogs over the Christmas period and that owners should ask the police for advice on the issue as officers will be carrying out rural patrols.
Offenders will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

“Penicuik Estate is a working farm and, while we welcome the public, users need to be aware that livestock can be grazing in any of our fields,” said farm manager of Penicuik Estate John Davidson.

“Sadly, over the last six weeks, we have had four separate incidents resulting in the death or severe injury of sheep. It is of great concern that we cannot graze our own livestock without fear that they will come to harm. We are urging people not only to keep their own dogs under control at all times, but to stay vigilant and report other people who do not.”

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