Government backs proposals to tackle livestock worrying

Sheep in a field

The government has announced its support for a bill which would give police greater powers to crack down on irresponsible dog owners whose pets attack livestock.

It follows the government’s decision earlier last year to pause plans for a raft of new animal welfare protections, which included measures intended to strengthen and expand laws on livestock worrying.

Government plans to strengthen the law on livestock worrying were stalled when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was withdrawn in June last year. Over 20,000 people signed an NFU petition, calling on newly elected PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners) to implement changes to legislation to prevent dog attacks on farm animals.

Raising concerns that the flagship bill on animal welfare was at risk from “scope creep”, the government said at the time it would instead focus on using single-issue legislation to introduce some of the proposed measures.

Enjoying the countryside responsibly

The new plans are being brought forward by former Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey via a Private Member’s Bill which tend to be shorter and more narrow in scope than government legislation – and while still being finalised, will not include all the measures the government had proposed for livestock worrying.

Ms Coffey’s Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill aims to amend the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, and has received full backing from the government and cross party support. The Bill has now moved to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

Expanding the list of farmed animals protected by the law to species such as emus and llamas was proposed by the government, but Ms Coffey said her Bill will instead focus on expanding police powers to protect “what is currently defined as livestock”.

Police will also be given more powers to seize dogs after serious incidents, greater powers of entry, and will be able to take evidence samples from livestock and dogs to assist their investigations.

NFU Livestock Board chair David Barton said the NFU is “grateful” for the new proposals and continues to work closely with Ms Coffey to ensure this legislation passes through the House of Commons.

“This included a recent roundtable for Ms Coffey to meet with some of our members who have been impacted,” David added.

“Livestock worrying and dog attacks causes stress and aguish for farmers seeing their animals suffering, in addition to the significant financial impact.

“For many years, we have been working with government and police leaders to agree proposed legislation giving police more powers to investigate dog attacks on livestock.

“No matter how in control dog owners think they are, they should keep their pets on a short lead around livestock and also ensure their pets do not escape from houses and gardens and roam free.”

Ms Coffey said: “We have heard from the police that they need more up to date powers to help them identify the dogs that are attacking and worrying livestock, and subsequently their owners.

We want people to enjoy the countryside and welcome members of the public being able to see where their food is produced, but dog owners must do this responsibly.”

NFU Livestock Board chair David Barton

“It is great to get out and enjoy nature, but dog owners should be careful and ideally put their dogs on a lead when on or near a working farm to avoid such attacks.”

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