Home   News   Article

Farmers in Scotland fear rising dog attacks this Easter

By Gregor White

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Farmers are worried about the possible impact on livestock of more dog walkers heading for the countryside over the upcoming Easter holiday.
Farmers are worried about the possible impact on livestock of more dog walkers heading for the countryside over the upcoming Easter holiday.

With Easter set to see an increase in visitors to the countryside, NFU Mutual is reminding dog-owners to be extra vigilant at a time when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable.

The warning comes as Scottish farm animals worth an estimated £123,000 were severely injured or killed in Scotland in 2023, more than double the 2022 cost, latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

Across the UK, the estimated cost of livestock worrying soared by nearly 30 per cent to £2.4 million last year.

At the same time, NFU Mutual’s recent survey of over 1100 dog owners found more people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022, 68 per cent and 64 per cent respectively.

Worryingly, less than half (49 per cent) said their pet always comes back when called.

Almost eight percent admitted their dog chases livestock but 46 per cent believed their dog was not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals.

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual manager for Scotland, said: “The Easter holidays is a great opportunity to explore Scotland’s countryside, but people must remember these idyllic rural destinations are working environments, key to farmers’ livelihoods and home to millions of sheep and new-born lambs.

“This year’s lambing season is well under way across Scotland, and farmers and crofters are understandably worried that an influx of out-of-control dogs this Easter could cause unnecessary carnage to new-born lambs out in the fields with their mothers for the first time.

“All dogs are capable of disturbing, chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“That’s why we are urging everyone exercising their dogs in the countryside to keep them on a lead wherever livestock may be nearby but to let go if chased by cattle.”

NFU Scotland policy advisor for rural business, Rhianna Montgomery, said: “Whilst we encourage the public to enjoy the countryside over Easter, we must stress the importance of responsible dog ownership.

“This time of year, is extremely important to farmers with many in the swings of lambing. It is also a very vulnerable time for the sheep yet to lamb and those with lambs at foot. Please avoid livestock where possible, if you come across sheep with or without lambs, ensure your dog is on a lead as this is where you have the most control.”

Inspector Jordan Low of Police Scotland added: “Protecting livestock is an important issue and a priority for members of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC).

“As we approach the Easter break, we want people to enjoy the countryside but do so in a safe and responsible manner.

“Livestock worrying and attacks can result in injury, miscarriage and even death. The damage and distress caused not just to the animals, but the farming business is considerable.

“It is also a crime. It is the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog is on a lead and under control when livestock is present. Failure to do so can result in a £40,000 fine or a 12-month prison sentence.

“We have several tools at our disposal to investigate instances of livestock worrying and attacks and will utilise these to investigate instances of irresponsible dog ownership around livestock.

“Police Scotland through SPARC is committed to working with its partners to increase public awareness of the legislation to protect livestock from dog attacks and irresponsible dog owners will be prosecuted.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More