Call to Keep Dogs Under Control in the North East Countryside

Warning from Police Scotland, NFU Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council on need for dog walkers to act responsibly around livestock

Police Scotland, NFU Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council are calling on dog owners to keep their animals under control in the countryside.

As the nation prepares to emerge from lockdown at a time that coincides with peak lambing and calving, it is more imperative than ever that dog owners ensure that their pets are controlled. With large numbers of people in Scotland likely to be having a ‘staycation’ this year rather than going abroad our countryside is likely to be busier than ever.

Farmers continue to see the devastating impacts of dog attacks on livestock and this crime is completely unacceptable.  In a case study provided by the three organisations, a farming couple describe the devastation a dog attack had on their flock.

The effects of livestock worrying are widespread as NFU Scotland North East Regional Manager Lorna Paterson explained: “Such incidents not only cause obvious suffering to sheep and cattle, but they also have a financial, emotional and time impact on our members and their families and cause significant upset.

“Our farmers put hard labour into nurturing their sheep and cattle, taking real pride in their work. These attacks by dogs are not inevitable and are down to the irresponsible behaviour of their owners.

“We desperately want people to visit and enjoy spending time in our rural countryside, but we do ask that they remember that all farms are working environments and must be respected by everyone accessing them.

“Please don’t underestimate your dog’s behaviour and remember that sometimes chasing sheep or cattle is seen as a type of game by many dogs. However, all too often, this can turn into a nightmare for the livestock, the farmers as well as yourself and your dog.

“Please stay safe, be responsible and keep your dog under close control.”

North East Division Crime Reduction Officer Constable Mike Urquhart added: “Scotland’s outdoors is a great place for dogs and their owners but please remember the outdoors is a place of work for many and not just for recreation. You only have the right to be on most land if you act responsibly.

“There is a real need to educate the public and inform dog owners about the risks all dogs can pose to sheep especially in springtime when ewes are heavily pregnant.

“Farmers can legitimately shoot any dog that is worrying livestock as well as owners having destruction orders placed on dogs by the Courts.”

Gillian Abel, Dog Warden for Aberdeenshire Council has the following advice for dog owners: “Keep your dog on a short lead if you are in an area where there are cows, sheep or horses. Wherever possible it is best to avoid going near areas where there are sheep.

“Dogs can cause unnecessary worry that may contribute to the premature death of sheep as well as any unborn lambs. Cows can be frightened by dogs and may react aggressively or panic and be dangerous to the dog owner and the dog.”

Case study – sheep on smallholding euthanised and several severely injured after dog attack last November

Mark and Alison run a small holding in rural Aberdeenshire. They have 22 pure bred Texel sheep in an 18-acre field near to their home.

About half past three on a cold November afternoon Alison received a call from her mother-in-law to say that one of their neighbour’s dogs was in the field with their sheep. Mark and Alison raced to the field where they found a scene of devastation. Numerous sheep had blood on their faces, two were lying on the ground and one could be seen to have a significant injury to its face.

The dog, a small Border terrier, was now under control and tied to a fence post. Its owner, one of Mark and Alison’s neighbours, was visibly upset and immediately admitted her dog was responsible for what had happened.

“There was so much damage. I couldn’t believe a small dog could have caused such awful injuries. It was like a massacre” said Alison. “Eight of our sheep had bites to their faces, some were laid out flat on the ground. Another had a more significant bite and had a gaping hole in its face. It was so upsetting. We had to get the vet immediately.”

Following a course of expensive treatment, the sheep with the most severe injury had to be put to sleep. “She couldn’t be saved, she was left with a huge hole in her face, and her injuries were too extensive. Because we only have 22 sheep she was like a pet, always coming up to us looking for attention. It’s been really heart-breaking.”

There have been long term practical implications for the couple as Mark explains: “As well as physical scars the sheep have been left really wary and they panic whenever they see dogs. This makes it very hard for us to handle them.”  

Notes for editors


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 39/21

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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