A joined-up approach to enhancing public education – and changes to the law – are needed to help tackle the problem of sheep worrying.
Speakers at the Sheepwatch Conference 2018 in Petersfield, Hampshire, emphasised the need for consistent messaging for responsible dog ownership and strong penalties for dog owners who will not engage.
Outdated legislation was making it difficult for the police to tackle the problem on the ground and the conference called for livestock attacks to be made a recordable crime so statistics could be collected and hotspots identified.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare said it would request a meeting with the Home Office to seek the inclusion of livestock attacks into a recordable crime.
The term ‘under close control’ as it currently stands in law should also be changed to mean ‘on a lead’ and the definition of livestock should include alpacas and horses, delegates heard.
Education was also highlighted, with many dog owners naïve over the potential dangers around livestock. However, there were some owners who would never engage and there needed to be strong penalties for these individuals.
Hampshire farmer and Sheepwatch UK founder Terena Plowright said she had been impressed by the commitment everyone at the conference had shown to changing public behaviour and updating the law.
“What we hope to see is everybody joining up together in a campaign that is not owned by anyone but is owned by everyone to encourage better dog ownership.”
She hoped this campaign would look at developing a key message around responsible ownership which can be delivered through retailers, vets and welfare bodies.
She also wanted to raise farmers’ awareness they needed to report worrying and use signage.