Farm leaders have called for judges to be given the power to lock up dog owners if their pets chase livestock.
The demand was triggered by an Argyll case in which Nicholas Rowley of East Princes Street, Rothesay, was given just 80 hours community service after being unable to pay a £1,000 fine when his four dogs attacked 17 sheep.
Sheriff Thomas Ward of Lochgilphead Sheriff Court, who sentenced Mr Rowley, said he was frustrated current guidelines prevented him from imposing a prison sentence or disqualifying the 56-year-old from keeping dogs.
Brian Walker, of Carloonan Farm, suffered losses totalling more than £4,000 because of the attack and said the sanctions dog owners faced were ‘far too lenient’.
NFU Scotland has subsequently stepped up its campaigning on the issue, calling for guilty dog owners to spend time in jail while waiting to be sentenced.
NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “Despite the dogs in this case being subject to a Dog Control Notice, the individual remains with four of his dogs, which is a real worry for local farmers.
“It should be possible for an individual to be remanded in custody, should they allow their dog to attack livestock.
“An inability to pay a financial penalty should not by default result in a lesser sentence being passed.”
Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts backed NFUS’ position, saying the use of prison sentences or a ban on keeping animals may be the only way to ‘send the message there are real consequences for irresponsible dog ownership’.
In England, insurance claims from livestock worrying incidents jumped 67 per cent last year.
But National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said prison sentences would be ‘difficult to rationalise’.
“It is unlikely a sentence would be a substantial amount of time and it would not compensate the farmer for the cost,” he said.
“However, fines should be higher and paid on top of the compensation to the farmer, not as part of it.”
MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare recently recommended raising the maximum penalty from £1,000 after taking evidence from Farmers Guardian.
We have thousands of livestock worrying signs which you can nail to gateposts or fenceposts near footpaths to highlight the problem to walkers.
If you would like some of these signs, please send a stamped, self-addressed A4 envelope to
FG Take the Lead, Farmers Guardian,
Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park,
You will need at least three First Class or Second Class stamps on to cover postage costs. We will be able send up to 25 signs.