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From the editor: As rural areas reopen, dog attacks must not start to rise

Farmers Guardian has long campaigned for a change in the law around livestock worrying and, therefore, it is encouraging to see progress being made in Scotland with the introduction of the Livestock Worrying - Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

It is several years now since FG launched its Take the Lead campaign which has served to reinforce the message to politicians, and other engaged stakeholders, about the devastating impact dog attacks on livestock can have.

 

As NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick says, the new Bill is a step in thew right direction. And it is one which should be mirrored in England and Wales, where the scourge of dog attacks continues to blight many farmers.

 

Usually, this spring’s warm weather would have seen the countryside awash with dog walkers. But with the coronavirus lockdown limiting people’s access to rural areas, visitors numbers to many places have dropped markedly.

 

But, with the lockdown slightly eased in England and people noticeably starting to head back to their favourite spots, the amount of walkers and tourists out with their pets on farmland is starting to rise once again.


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With that increase will come more instances of sheep being attacked and is why livestock farmers in all parts of the UK require effective legislation which actually acts as a deterrent and means people keep their dogs under control.

 

It is also key that farmers feel the law is on their side. Too often at FG we have heard from farmers devastated by the loss of sheep in dog attacks, but who have not reported the incident due to the belief that it will simply not be prioritised by the police.

 

There is also the challenge that, given the way many dog owners treat their pets, often more like a child than an animal, that legislation needs to be significantly hardened in order to make them understand the implications of their pets’ actions.

 

Rural areas are there to be enjoyed, but agriculture needs the right legal tools in order to deter those who negligently abuse their right to access.

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