Ayrshire Initiative Target Irresponsible Local Dog Owners

Initiative stems from Union’s Control Your Dog on Farmland campaign

With collaboration across the agricultural industry increasing to tackle the blight of livestock worrying by dogs, NFU Scotland’s Ayrshire region has teamed up with local police to launch a local initiative.

On the back of the Union’s Control Your Dog on Farmland campaign, launched in early February, regional initiatives are being set up to support the campaign.

At Girtridge Farm, Drybridge, South Ayrshire last week, Ayrshire Regional Manager Christine Cuthbertson met with local farmer and NFU Scotland member John Howie and Police Scotland to launch the local initiative.

John Howie’s pregnant flock of 45 sheep suffered an attack by a dog on March 4. There is still uncertainty if one pregnant ewe which was hurt will survive, with unknown damage potentially caused to the flock. Sheep can abort their lambs or have problems in future breeding if suffer dog attacks – no matter how minor.

Local events are planned to educate dog walkers on their responsibilities when walking on or near farmland, as well as publicity material available to local businesses and farms to help raise awareness of the national campaign.

The key messages are aimed at farmers and dog owners and include:

  1. Be informed – know your responsibilities under the Code
  2. Plan ahead – know your route, ensure you have poo bags and a lead
  3. Control your pet - keep dogs on a lead around livestock. Know the steps to take if things don’t go to plan – cattle charging, dog escapes?
  4. Don’t leave it hanging - picking up your dog’s poo is not enough, take it with you and put it in a bin, even if on the fringes of farmland. Do not just ‘flick it’ into the bushes.                    

In early December, NFU Scotland surveyed farmers, crofters and landowners about the issues they have with irresponsible access, either through livestock worrying by dogs, or the impacts of owners failing to pick up after their pets on or near farmland. The survey had more than 340 responses, which showed that:

  • 72 per cent of respondents had an issue with livestock worrying on their land
  • 100 per cent of survey respondents said they have an issue with dog fouling on their land – this included plastic bag pollution as well as instances where livestock have contracted diseases from eating dog poo and plastic bags.

Regional Manager Christine Cuthbertson commented: “Many people underestimate the damage dogs can do – whether that is attacking livestock when being off a lead or causing them to contract dangerous diseases through their poo – we need dog owners to take responsibility for controlling their dogs.

“With many farms and fields being nearby to public areas, particularly in Ayrshire, it is even more important that dog owners ensure their pets are kept on a lead around farmland, and that they pick up after their pets.

“Attacks on livestock are happening all too often and we need the support of local dog owners to help prevent this. You think your dog is ‘just playing’ with the sheep but that could change in an instant and you will have no way to stop the dog when it starts to attack.

Farmer, John Howie of Girtridge Farm, Drybridge, South Ayrshire whose flock suffered an attack by a dog on March 4 commented: “Most of our fields are next to towns and village, and I have no doubt that if the person responsible had kept their pet under control then it would have prevented their dog from attacking my sheep.

“It’s not just the financial damage caused to us, but also the emotional impact for ourselves and the sheep when such an incident occurs.

“Please make sure your dog is on a lead when walking on farmland – even if you can’t see livestock they could just be over the hill or hidden in a dip. It’s not worth the risk, to you, your dog or the livestock.”

Sergeant Alan McDowall commented: “Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and continues to be an area of great concern. I would urge all dog owners to keep their dog on a short lead and under close control when near livestock.     

“Furthermore, if you reside adjacent to land where livestock is kept please ensure that your dog is in a secure environment when left unattended.”

Notes to Editors

  • Photographs from the launch in South Ayrshire are available, as well as campaign posters and flyers, please email for further information.
  • Farmer John Howie is available for interview, please contact for further information.
  • To find out more about the Control Your Dog on Farmland, including accessing posters to print off, visit
  • If you are covering this story on social media, please use the hashtag #ControlYourDog and tag @nfustweets on Twitter or NFU Scotland on Facebook if appropriate.


Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108

Author: Ruth McClean

Date Published:

News Article No.: 34/19

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About The Author

Ruth McClean

Having worked in the communications and journalism industry for the last 11 years, NFU Scotland’s Communications Manager Ruth McClean understands the needs of journalists and has extensive knowledge of the wider agricultural industry. After growing up in Argyll and Bute and working in the area as a reporter for local newspapers for eight years, Ruth joined NFU Scotland in 2013 in her current role. She is also Editor of the Union’s membership magazine the Scottish Farming Leader.

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