Increased use of the countryside by people allows them to appreciate nature and should be seen as a positive. However, where houses have been built and people have moved in, sometimes with pets, this has had an impact on those who keep livestock in some areas. In particular, irresponsible dog owners who do not ensure their pets are kept securely at home when they are out, or those who walk their dogs without taking care around livestock unfortunately have led to an increase in the number of attacks on livestock being reported to the police.
When the All-Party Parliamentary group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) considered this issue it was thought around 15,000 sheep had been killed by dogs in 2016. In 2019 NFU Mutual stated it cost the sector £1.2 million. The NSA's annual survey on livestock worrying in 2020 found 95% of respondents had experienced livestock worrying on their farm, with the average cost being £1,134.
RSPCA believes the law is in urgent need of updating. In particular we believe there are areas of the law that need amending including:
- Updating the language of the 1953 Act to ensure it is clearer and more relevant for today.
- Widen the scope of the definition of 'livestock' to include 'camelids, deer, donkeys' etc as well as extending the scope of the law to cover any land where livestock is permitted to be.
- Provide certain defences for people where they or their dog was put at risk by the livestock or whereby they can show they reasonably believed the dog was under the control of someone else at the time.
- Enable a Court to grant a warrant for police to search for and seize evidence of an offence and also provide an interim exemption scheme for the police to use on a case by case basis for dogs that are seized.
- Allow for offences to be triable either way and set out a list of actions a Court may take to deal with instances of livestock worrying, from control orders, disqualification orders, through to deprivation orders, destruction orders and a greatly increased fine as well as imprisonment.
For further information please see the briefing below.