NFU Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s decision to pass the landmark Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Bill and congratulates Emma Harper MSP for her valuable work over four years in driving through this hugely important piece of legislation.
It will significantly increase the powers of investigation and penalties to tackle the ongoing blight of dog attacks on livestock and dog fouling – two of the biggest issues that farmers, crofters and landowners face through irresponsible access by dog owners. The Bill provides for penalties to extend to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months; to a fine not exceeding £40,000, or both.
The Union also praised the cross-party support afforded to the bill by all MSPs which successfully saw it reach Stage Three approval today (24 March 2021) ahead of the Scottish Parliament going into recess for the Scottish elections in May.
NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said
With dog attacks on livestock occurring daily, and irresponsible dog ownership persisting, I thank Emma Harper MSP for her tireless efforts in bringing forward this landmark Bill to address this.
As someone who has seen several dog attacks on my sheep in the past, the pain and suffering of animals is dreadful to see. The cost to livestock owners is often high, both financially and emotionally, and such attacks are easily avoidable by dog owners acting responsibly around livestock.
Once brought into legislation later this year, enforcement is key. The stronger penalties must act as a better deterrent; and when paired with the investigative powers granted by the Bill, the number of prosecutions of those dog owners responsible for allowing livestock attacks to happen must increase. With the issue continuing to blight the countryside, this will be a significant step forward.
This bill sends out a crystal-clear message on this matter. NFUS has spent considerable time, effort and resource on this blight over many years. Efforts have been focussed on awareness raising amongst dog owners of their responsibilities, raising awareness amongst livestock keepers of their rights and lobbying Local Authorities and Police Scotland to use control mechanisms available to them.
It was clear that there was a need for legislation, stronger penalties and appropriate compensation to hammer home the responsibility and liability of dog owners who do not exercise their pets responsibly on agricultural land. This bill is a big step forward.