Views sought on tougher penalties for ‘livestock worrying’

Police could be given new powers to seize dogs under tougher penalties being proposed for ‘livestock worrying’ in Scotland.

Jun 29, 2020
By Paul Jacques

A draft law, which would increase the penalties for dog-owners whose pets chase, attack or kill farmed animals, is to be considered by the Scottish Parliament.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has issued a call for views on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which aims to “strengthen and update the law” in relation to so-called livestock worrying.

The Member’s Bill, introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Emma Harper MSP, would provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence and increase the maximum penalty to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, or both.

It would also allow a court to make an order disqualifying convicted persons from owning or keeping a dog, or preventing them for taking dogs onto agricultural land on which livestock is present.

The Bill provides police and inspectors with new powers to seize a dog for the purpose of identifying its owner or gathering evidence, and further extends the definition of ‘livestock’ to reflect a more up-to-date list of the species now farmed in Scotland, such as llamas, alpacas, ostriches, farmed deer, buffalo and enclosed game birds.

Committee Convener Edward Mountain MSP said: “Dog attacks cause suffering to farm animals, resulting in distress and significant financial cost to farmers.

“Emma Harper believes the current law in relation to livestock worrying is out of date and that tougher enforcement powers and penalties are needed to act as a deterrent.

“The purpose of the committee’s call for evidence is to understand the need for further legislation in this area and to seek views on whether the additional powers and increased punishments proposed are sufficient and proportionate.”

The Bill would:

  • Increase the maximum penalty to a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months;
  • Allow the courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on agricultural land;
  • Give the police greater powers to investigate and enforce livestock worrying offence, including going onto land to identify a dog, seize it and collect evidence from it;
  • Allow other organisations to be given similar powers;
  • Extend the ‘livestock worrying’ offence to cover additional types of farmed animal; and
  • Rename the offence as that of “attacking or worrying livestock”, with the intention of emphasising how serious it can be.

The call for evidence closes on August 28.

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