SLE backs livestock attack Bill

Press Release

Targeted legislation to deal with dog attacks on livestock is a hugely welcome move for rural Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates said today.

The rural business organisation has said it supports the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, a Members Bill brought forward by Emma Harper MSP. The Bill will be debated by parliament at stage one tomorrow (Thursday 21 January.)

Recent figures from Police Scotland show that from April 2019 to March 2020, 265 incidents of livestock attacks were reported, with evidence to suggest significant under-reporting where incidents are not escalated to police.

After extensive awareness and education campaigns by police, government and rural organisations, SLE said the time had come for legislation to assist in the prevention of dog attacks. The organisation also said it supported tough penalties for irresponsible owners who put livestock at risk.

Emma Steel, Policy Adviser (Access), said: “Current legislation does not adequately balance the rights of dog owners with rights of farmers to protect their livestock so this Bill brought forward by Emma Harper MSP is hugely welcome news.

“We are supportive of tougher efforts to tackle livestock attacks and even within this draft legislation, there are elements we would like to see strengthened, such as increasing the penalties for those found guilty of an offence. In response to the Bill, the Scottish Government has also said it has commissioned a scoping study for the creation of a National Dog Control Database – a device SLE has been asking for.

“Rural organisations – alongside government and police – will continue to raise awareness to ensure dogs are kept on a short leash when around livestock but given the number of incidents still occurring, legislation can help too.

“The effects of livestock worrying on farmers cannot be underestimated – attacks on sheep and other livestock by dogs not only has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers when their animals are killed or injured, but also has an effect on the animals themselves, their productivity and welfare.”

Emma Harper MSP, who has introduced the Bill, said: “My Protection of Livestock (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill has received unanimous backing from Scotland’s leading agricultural, animal welfare and outdoor access bodies. It received over 800 responses to the consultation from farmers, dog owners and those involved with the agricultural community who agreed that the current legislation is outdated and who were supportive of the principles of the Bill.

“Following the report by the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and after meeting with the Minister, I have agreed to a number of amendments to the Bill which will be taken forward at Stage 2 in February. These include a technical amendment to include an affirmative procedure for regulations regarding the definition of livestock, increasing the maximum available penalty to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of £40,000, or both, which will be taken forward by the Scottish Government, removing provisions authorising inspecting bodies other than the police to carry out investigation, and finally, removing the power for entry to non-domestic premises without a warrant.

“I look forward to hearing all the contributions to the debate on Thursday and thank all who have been involved with the Bill thus far.”