New powers to tackle dog attacks on livestock could have ‘major impact’

22 April 2024

Thérèse Coffey with NFU reps and Suffolk farmers

Photograph: Contract shepherdess Tilly Abbott, sheep farmer Heidi Crick, farm manager Will Pratt, sheep farmer and dog trainer Ed Hawkins, Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey, NFU Suffolk County Adviser Ella Thackray and NFU External Affairs Adviser Jen Cox.

Suffolk Coastal MP and former Defra Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey met with Suffolk NFU members in her constituency office in Woodbridge to gather information and case studies to help with a new bill which would give police more powers to tackle dog attacks on livestock.

Dr Coffey has worked closely with the NFU on the private members’ bill which is set to go to the committee stage in parliament on 24 April.

If passed, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill would see police given more powers to seize dogs after serious incidents and enable officers to take evidence samples from livestock and dogs to assist investigations.

‘A strong deterrent’

Dr Coffey said: “I think the bill will make a real impact and collaboration with the NFU and the farming community has been key to this.

“Giving police more powers and some high-profile prosecutions should act as a strong deterrent and encourage people to be responsible dog owners.

“I hope the bill will generate a significant national publicity campaign to raise awareness about the importance of keeping a dog on a lead around livestock.”

Figures from insurers NFU Mutual, published in February, revealed that farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2023, up nearly 30% from the previous year.

I think the bill will make a real impact and collaboration with the NFU and the farming community has been key to this.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Thérèse Coffey 

Livestock worrying includes barking, chasing, biting and killing.

It is a criminal offence and dog owners could be liable for prosecution or a fine.

Under the Animals Act 1971, a dog could be shot if caught in the act by a landowner.

Incidents cause anxiety, miscarriage and terrible injuries, often leading to euthanasia by a vet.

Keep dogs on a lead and secure gardens

NFU County Adviser for Suffolk Ella Thackray said: “Sadly livestock worrying continues to be a major issue for many farmers in Suffolk and other parts of the country.

“This has a financial impact and it’s really awful to see the animals suffering in this way.

“We urge people to keep their dogs on a lead around livestock and make sure their gardens are secure.

“If this bill is passed, it will be really good news and we thank Thérèse Coffey for working on this with us.

“We will be encouraging our members to report incidents of livestock worrying to help to make a positive impact in reducing the number of incidents that are happening.”

The NFU has campaigned continuously on issues surrounding livestock worrying and fed into a series of briefings during the development of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill in 2021 as well as leading a campaign for changes to legislation to prevent dog attacks on farm animals which nearly 20,000 people supported.

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