A consultation to introduce a Members Bill to give police better powers to deal with incidents of livestock worrying has added weight to industry calls to toughen up penalties for irresponsible dog owners.
Emma Harper MSP launched the 12-week consultation in Scottish parliament yesterday (February 21) with figures suggesting a 67 per cent rise in dog attacks on sheep in the last two years.
It follows work by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) – including Farmers Guardian – to address the current law around livestock worrying and to encourage victims of the issue to report it.
Ms Harper said the language used when communicating messages around livestock worrying needed to be strengthened.
“We all need to prevent our dogs from attacking livestock,” she said. “I am willing to speak directly to folk and have agreed to visit [other] constituencies too.
“If you would like to receive a hardback copy [of the public consultation] or a version in an accessible format please email email@example.com.”
The Scottish Conservative however criticised the nine months it had taken for the Bill to be introduced, suggesting it was possible ‘dozens of offences will not have been covered as a result’.
Research from North East region MSP Peter Chapman found the number of livestock worrying incidents in Scotland had more than doubled in the last decade.
But the industry is continuing its work to reduce the number of livestock worrying attacks, with Westminster MPs agreeing action was needed and North Wales Police Rural Crime Team last week admitting it was ‘making headway’ with the government on changing relevant laws.
In the last 24 hours we’ve had 86 responses to my livestock attack proposals - in context that number is more than what most Members’ Bill consultations will receive in total... and we still have 12 weeks left! Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far. 👏 Keep ‘em comin’! pic.twitter.com/T31WLGWj33— Emma Harper, MSP (@EmmaHarperMSP)>
In the last 24 hours we’ve had 86 responses to my livestock attack proposals - in context that number is more than what most Members’ Bill consultations will receive in total... and we still have 12 weeks left! Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far. \uD83D\uDC4F Keep ‘em comin’! pic.twitter.com/T31WLGWj33— Emma Harper, MSP (@EmmaHarperMSP) February 22, 2019
NFU Scotland vice president Martin Kennedy added: “This public consultation […] is a useful platform on which to build forwards more proportionate sanctions for those irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to worry livestock.
“Last year the union outlined ‘key asks’ that it would like to see within a bill – in particular higher fines, a ban on owning dogs and additional powers for the police – so we are delighted that some of these asks are included within the proposed bill from Emma Harper.”
*To respond to the consultation, click here.