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Do We Need A Tougher Stance on Sheep Attacks?

19 February 2015

ANALYSIS – Scottish farmers are calling on courts to treat incidents of sheep worrying with “greater seriousness” in light of a rise in cases and “disappointing” fines.

A legal expert at NFU Scotland has highlighted a 2013 dog attack, saying £400 is “in no way comfort or consolation” for the trauma and financial cost of having 70 sheep mauled by dogs or humanely put to sleep.

This is in response to the punishment served out to a dog owner whose animals savaged 100 sheep with lambs, causing £20,000 worth of damages eighteen months ago.

Damages were calculated at £20,000, caused by two Border Collies and a Bull Mastiff. 

sheepNFU Scotland’s legal and technical policy manager, Gemma Thompson said: “Sheep worrying has become more common in recent years in Scotland, and the impact and devastation an incident of this nature has had on the Hamilton family is evident.

“The £400 fine handed down by the courts is in no way a comfort, or consolation, for at least £20,000 worth of costs, through the loss of sheep, veterinary and legal costs, not to mention the pain and trauma this attack has had on the Hamilton family.”

Farmers need the Scottish Crown Office to treat incidents of sheep worrying with the utmost seriousness and to hold those responsible into account, she added.

In a press release, NFU Scotland said: “The only recourse open to the Hamilton family to secure compensation for their losses is to consider a civil claim.

“This incident – and the disappointing manner in which has been treated by the Scottish legal system – will be a worrying development for Scottish sheep farmers as they prepare for lambing.

“As spring approaches, and more people get out and about walking in the countryside, the Union is urging dog walkers to be responsible and to abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access code to help avoid distressing incidents like these. By keeping dogs on leashes, and away from fields, livestock worrying can be avoided.”

Dog attack victim, Caroline Hamilton of Cairns Farm, said she feels “let down by the legal system."

“There appears to be no appreciation of the severity of the impact such a case has on ourselves or indeed the agricultural community,” said Mrs Hamilton.

“We honestly and truthfully thought that we would see justice in the court. But we have been left speechless.”

The National Sheep Association has stated previously that dogs should be kept on leads and, dog owners in farming areas should prevent escape onto land containing sheep.

The issue is considered by the association on its website, where it states: “It is an offence to allow a dog to worry sheep. Worrying includes attacking or chasing sheep and, in some circumstances, farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs if they are endangering their sheep.”

“It is vital that you keep your dog on the lead around livestock, even if you can usually trust it to come to call.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Michael joined 5m Publishing in October 2012 as editor of the TheCattleSite, TheBeefSite and TheDairySite. He studied English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield before graduating with his Postgraduate diploma in Land Management at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire. Michael grew up in North Yorkshire, England and worked on local livestock farms in his youth.



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