Proposed protection of livestock bill puts dog owners lives at risk

The Kennel Club (KC) has raised concerns of the risks to human health and safety presented by the proposed Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill, and has deemed the well-intentioned but ill-informed plans a missed opportunity to tackle the issue effectively. The Bill, the consultation for which closed yesterday (15th May 2019), was laid out by Scottish National Party MSP, Emma Harper.

With one dog owner every year being trampled to death by cattle1, and many more suffering life-changing injuries, the consultation failed to acknowledge the need to protect the interests of dog owners and cattle farmers when proposing new laws to deal with sheep worrying – which could see dog owners facing up to six months in prison if their dog chases or kills livestock.

Furthermore, figures released by Police Scotland2 show that sheep worrying is usually caused by dogs out alone or who have escaped from gardens, and not those being taken on walks, which the proposals have not taken into account - meaning that the opportunity has been missed to deal with the biggest issue behind sheep worrying. This is in keeping with the figures reported by police forces over a four year period for England and Wales, in which 7 in 10 attacks took place without an owner present [1].

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “With 1,400 sheep on our own farm, sheep worrying is a serious issue for the Kennel Club; dog owners should always have their pets on lead around livestock, but crucially they must release their dogs if threatened by cattle.

“The tone and content of the proposals ignores this reality, and focuses far too much on increasing penalties after sheep worrying has happened, rather than applying proven good practice to ensure the health and safety of people, sheep and dogs.

“Making people fearful of letting their dogs off lead when their lives are in danger from cattle, or making them feel unwelcome in the countryside when they are not causing any problems is bad for the health and wellbeing of both people and their pets, and adds to the burden on the NHS.

“Evidence from previous Parliamentary reviews and the UK’s bigger farm insurer show that credible signage that keeps people safe and helps them avoid conflict with sheep is effective, and we are disappointed that the consultation failed to acknowledge the role farmers can play in reducing problems.

“Most of all, the unjustified blaming of all incidents on people walking dogs does nothing to deal with the biggest problem, which Police Scotland have shown comes from dogs escaping from gardens and being out alone.”