Midlothian sheep attack figures a real worry for police

Police in Midlothian will carry out a Rural Crime initiative throughout  November.
Police in Midlothian will carry out a Rural Crime initiative throughout November.

Sheep worrying continues to be a problem in the countryside and features in the Midlothian Rural Crime Initiative 2019 which began on Sunday.

This campaign was launched to coincide with the tupping season. Around this time of the year sheep are also moved to lower ground for the winter period and may be found in fields and land where livestock are not normally present.

Sheep worrying is a criminal offence and if a dog is found to have attacked livestock the owner may face criminal action. Livestock worrying is not just when a dog chases or attacks an animal, but can also be when a dog is in close proximity to livestock. This can cause sheep to panic and flee, resulting in serious injury or death.

As well as the distress and harm caused to the animals, these incidents have both a financial and emotional impact on the farmer that is completely avoidable if dog walkers follow some simple steps.

Sergeant Michele Lindsay of Penicuik Police Station said: “if you are out walking a dog, remember that you can meet livestock anywhere in the countryside, don’t be complacent with routes you have previously travelled, it is important to remember livestock are moved around.

“Between January 1, 2018 and October 22, 2019, as well as a number of reports of hare coursing, there have been in excess of 27 livestock worrying incidents reported in Midlothian, including in Penicuik, Roslin, Dalkeith, Danderhall, Pathhead and Gorebridge.

“These type of incidents often go unreported and we would encourage farmers to come forward when they do occur, or when there are any ‘near misses’.

“I urge farmers, dog walkers and members of the public to talk to us for any advice on this issue, as officers will be carrying out rural patrols during the month of November.

“Please be assured that any incidents of livestock worrying will be robustly dealt with, and offenders reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

“Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that they are in control of their dogs at all times and should avoid fields with livestock, where possible. Where livestock are unavoidable, dogs should always be kept under close control, preferably on a short lead.

“Even if they are usually very obedient, it is every dog’s instinct to chase. They don’t understand the impact of this, but as an owner you do.”