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National organisations come together to urge dog owners to be wary near livestock

DOG owners are being urged to keep their dogs under control around livestock warns several Scottish organisations. 

Lambing season is underway and farmers are reportedly worried about dogs attacking their sheep.

Owners are being told that their dog could potentially stress farm animals out so much that they miscarry or even die.

Soay sheep, Hirta, St Kilda.©Lorne Gill/SNH - Animal News Scotland
(©Lorne Gill/SNH) Lambing season is underway in Scotland with farmers now concerned for ewe’s miscarrying

A range of national organisations have now joined forces to highlight the impact of livestock attacks and stress how important it is to always keep your dog in sight and under control near farmland – if in doubt use a lead, they say.

The guidance issued to owners is “do not allow your dog to approach animals or people uninvited, adding that in open country, it may not be obvious when animals are around.”

Dog owners are also advised that where possible you should avoid animals, but release your dog if threatened.

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot Chief Executive, said: “Our message to all dog owners in Scotland is simple but really important – we want you to enjoy your visit to the countryside, but please, please keep your dog under proper control.”

Francesca said: “It’s important to understand that our access rights in Scotland’s countryside are dependent on responsible behaviour by the public, and for people walking dogs, this includes keeping their pets under proper control.

“We urge new dog owners to take the lead on responsible ownership by familiarising themselves with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

Commercial Dog Walkers near the Falkirk Wheel.©Lorne Gill/SNH - Animal News Scotland
(©Lorne Gill/SNH) Dog owners are being asked to keep their pets away from animals wherever possible

Research claims that there are around half a million dogs in Scotland.

One in five of Scots now share our home with a dog and the Covid pandemic has led to a noticeable increase in the number of dog walkers taking exercise in the countryside.

NFU Scotland’s Head of Policy Team, Gemma Cooper said: “It is imperative that dog owners ensure that their pets are controlled in the countryside.

“We continue to see the devastating impacts of dog attacks on livestock almost daily and this crime is completely unacceptable.

“Unfortunately, we know of a number of cases where farmers have been left with no choice but to shoot dogs that have worried livestock.

“Any dog, including the most placid family pet, can inflict horrific damage to animals such as sheep.

“Particularly during lambing season, dogs must not be taken into fields with young lambs or pregnant ewes.

“Given that livestock attacks and dog fouling are two of the biggest issues that farmers, crofters and landowners face through the irresponsible actions of dog owners, the Union is urging Scotland’s MSPs to support and strengthen the measures in the landmark Protection of Livestock Bill, as it makes its way through the Scottish Parliament.

“NFU Scotland has worked closely with Emma Harper MSP, the Member in Charge for the Bill which would significantly increase penalties and powers for investigation.”

The partnership, includes NatureScot, The Kennel Club, Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, Visit Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates who are asking owners to be vigilant with their dogs.

Inspector Alan Dron, Rural Crime Co-ordinator for Police Scotland, added: “Police Scotland takes any report of livestock attacks or worrying seriously.

Consistently raising awareness of this emotive offence has resulted in more dog attacks being reported, investigated and where applicable, owners brought before the courts.

“Unfortunately, too many instances of dogs attacking or worrying livestock still occur and whilst we want everyone to enjoy our countryside, it is important that dog owners, or those in charge of dogs, exercise greater caution when accessing rural areas, particularly if livestock are present.”

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