Dog-walkers, land managers and farmers can work together to reduce the risk of attacks on livestock during Easter and beyond.
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents rural businesses, said it was crucial to minimise the risk of dog attacks when the lambing season was underway and the countryside was welcoming visitors and walkers across Scotland.
This is the first lambing period since tougher legislation for livestock attacks under the new Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 has come into effect.
Dog owners could face up to a £40,000 fine or even be sent to prison – or both – for allowing their dog to worry or attack farmed animals, including alpacas and game birds. SLE is a partner in a campaign with Police Scotland and others to promote the message ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’.
Simon Ovenden, Policy Adviser (Access and Visitor Management) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: ‘Lambing is now in full swing across many areas of Scotland and with Easter approaching, many farmers and landowners will be welcoming visitors and walkers as they enjoy the spring air. It is however essential for all those in the outdoors to appreciate that this is the time of year when dog attacks on livestock are likely to be at their highest.
‘Too often farmers have heard tearful stories from people whose dog is likely to be destroyed because it has attacked, and that it had “never worried or chased sheep before”. The farmer is understandably uninterested in the past conduct of the dog as they deal with the gruesome aftermath of such incidents.
‘My advice for landowners and managers would be to display clear, simple signs aimed at the public, on gates at relevant times of the year. Try to offer advice in a friendly but direct way where necessary to avoid any situation escalating to an unfortunate level.
‘For dog-owners and walkers, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code states what responsible behaviour is for all visitors. Do not take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals and always keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.’
Scottish Land & Estates said it had signage available to download free from its website or copies can be ordered for a nominal fee.
The National Access Forum also has some helpful guidance for farmers on their website and if a farmer or landowner has concerns regarding the behaviour of a visitor or their dog, they are advised to:
- Point out any restrictions in place and explain clearly why certain areas are off limits or inadvisable to enter.
Suggest an alternative route for them to walk.
- Explain there is new legislation which means dog owners could be heavily fined or sent to prison if their dog attacks farmed animals including sheep, cows and alpacas.
- Walk away if you feel threatened or unsafe at any point.
- If an attack is taking place, try to get photos and descriptions of the dog, people, vehicle if there is one and time of day. Call the police using 999 stating a crime is in progress, giving as much information as possible.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states what responsible behaviour is for all visitors, including dog owners:
- Never let your dog worry or attack livestock. This can include aggressive behaviour such as barking.
- Do not take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals.
- If you have no option but to go into a field of farm animals, always keep your dog(s) on a short lead or under close control and keep as far as possible from the animals.If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.
For more information, visit www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk