For more than three years Farmers Guardian has sought to raise awareness of the damage reckless dogs can wreak on farm livelihoods via our Take the Lead campaign.
In the intervening period we have written countless articles, spoken to numerous MPs, handed out tens of thousands of our red Take the Lead signs to farmers from Cornwall to Inverness, and had our sheep worrying videos reach six-figure audiences.
More importantly, our campaign, relentlessly driven by FG’s Olivia Midgley, has engaged with the public at scores of dog shows and other events, and secured significant national and local media coverage. We have done what farmers asked us to do; be an advocate for the industry.
Now, with proposals put forward for dog owners whose pets attack farm animals to face harsher penalties under new legislation, momentum is hopefully building towards a sustainable deterrent in the battle against livestock worrying.
Raising the maximum penalty from £1,000, with the option to increase this for persistent or repeat offenders, MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW), which took in to account FG’s Take the Lead findings, want more to be done to educate dog owners of the threat their animals pose.
But as regular articles in this publication and horrific posts across social media show, we are a long way from truly getting on top of the problem of livestock worrying by dogs.
Too many of the public still do not think their pet can do any harm when the reality is, in fact, completely the opposite.
The idea for Take the Lead popped into my head while seeing a dog chase sheep on the banks of Loch Lomond in January 2014. Little did I realise at the time the impact the campaign would go on to have.
We are proud of the resonance it has had, but the APGAW’s recommendations are far from the end of the battle. In some respects they are just the start.
And finally, for those of an internet persuasion, the FG Facebook page is now the most followed UK agricultural publication on that social media platform. Check it out if you can.