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NFU reports increase in cost of attacks by dogs

By Gregor White

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The cost of attacks on livestock rose last yea according to the farmers' union.
The cost of attacks on livestock rose last yea according to the farmers' union.

Dog attacks on Scottish livestock cost an estimated £123,000 last year, more than double the 2022 cost, latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

The shocking statistics come as NFU Mutual’s latest 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.

Less than half (49 per cent) said their pet always comes back when called and almost eight percent admitted their dog chases livestock though 46 per cent believed their dog was not capable of causing death or injury of farm animals.

More than half (54 per cent) felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing.

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Scotland manager, said: “The doubling in the cost of dog attacks on livestock in Scotland is incredibly alarming for the country’s farmers and crofters, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets under way and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers about the complacency and naïvety of some dog owners who regularly allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside, seemingly unaware of the carnage the dog could cause, then are horrified when an attack happens.

“There have also been incidences where dogs have chased, injured and killed sheep and the owner is nowhere to be seen. All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.”

“Farmers are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific and needless suffering to livestock and can traumatise all involved dealing with the aftermath.

“We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pet and keep them on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock. If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it, to a local farmer and the police, so that the injured animals are not left suffering in pain.”

If present at an attack, 57 per cent of dog owners would intervene to stop it, 22 per cent would report it to a local farmer and 11 per cent would call the police.

Across the UK, dog attacks on livestock were estimated to cost £2.4 million last year, up nearly 30% compared to the previous year

NFU Scotland Policy Advisor for Rural Business, Rhianna Montgomery said: “We are disappointed to see that the impact and cost of livestock worrying on Scottish farmers and crofters has increased significantly, suggesting a surge in instances of worrying and attacks by dogs. We need to understand the reasoning behind this increase in irresponsible dog ownership and ensure that we are doing everything we can to promote the message to the public.

“Dog owners need to be aware of the pain and suffering their pet has the potential to inflict when they attack livestock, as well as being aware of the repercussions.

“We continue to encourage farmers to report all incidents of livestock being attacked by dogs to ensure that our hard-won changes to legislation hold all irresponsible dog owners to account.”

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

“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 fine up to £40,000 or a 12-month prison sentence.

“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.”

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