Sheep warning to dog owners

Sheep Worrying campaign launched at Flotterstone. . Paula Newton (National Heritage Officer), Eileen Nicolson (NHO volunteer)
Sheep Worrying campaign launched at Flotterstone. . Paula Newton (National Heritage Officer), Eileen Nicolson (NHO volunteer)

The perennial countryside problem of sheep worrying features prominently in the 2018 Rural Crime Initiative which began recently.

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 it is close to livestock. This can cause sheep to panic and flee, resulting in serious injury or death.

Sergeant Michele Lindsay of Penicuik Police Station, said: “It’s important that dog walkers prepare to meet livestock whenever they’re walking in the countryside, even if it’s routes they’ve travelled before as livestock tend to be moved with the seasons.

“There have been ten reported livestock worrying incidents in the Midlothian area including Penicuik, Loanhead, Roslin, Rosewell, and Gorebridge between January 1, 2017 and March 12, 2018. We know that these incidents often go unreported and would encourage farmers to come forward when there are any ‘near misses’.

“We’d also urge farmers to engage with dog walkers if they have any concerns and put signage up on the relevant gates, paths and entrances to warn walkers of the presence of livestock.

“I’d urge farmers, dog walkers and members of the public to talk to us for any advice, as officers will be carrying out rural patrols between March and May. Please be assured that any incidents of livestock worrying will be robustly dealt with, and offenders reported to the Procurator Fiscal.”

NFU Scotland regional manager Teresa Dougall said: “Livestock worrying continues to be a burden on Scottish livestock farmers, and it is not just the financial losses they suffer, but the stress it can cause for cattle and sheep, and the time they have to take away from the day to day running of their business to deal with such cases.

“Some people just don’t realise the damage their dogs can do by being amongst vulnerable livestock, like pregnant cows and ewes or young lambs. Ninety-nine per cent of those who are walking their dogs take care, It’s the one per cent who are careless and cause death and injury to helpless animals. Reluctantly farmers can sometimes be left with no option but to shoot a dog to stop it worrying their livestock.

“Last year saw 178 instances of livestock worrying in Scotland, the highest in seven years.  We need dog owners to take heed of our warnings, to keep dogs on a lead and under close control, avoiding fields with livestock where possible and taking an alternative route.

“There are no irresponsible dogs, only irresponsible dog owners and we need those who are acting irresponsibly to change their ways.”