NFUS Gets Tough on Livestock Worrying

#TakeALead Petition signed by more than 4,000 people backing legislative changes and tougher sanctions

With livestock worrying continuing to blight Scottish farms and crofts, NFU Scotland is pursuing several legislative changes and seeking tougher sanctions.

Last month, NFU Scotland wrote to the Scottish Government with five key asks designed to tackle the ongoing blight of livestock worrying. South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has recently announced that she will bring forward a proposal for a Private Members Bill.

This spring saw repeated incidents where irresponsible dog owners allowed livestock to be killed or maimed by dogs.  Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual recently revealed that the cost of claims related to livestock worrying has reached a record level of £1.6 million across the UK.  The cost of dog attacks reported to NFU Mutual in Scotland has quadrupled in the last two years to more than £50,000.

Alongside its lobbying activity, NFU Scotland has been supporting The Scottish Farmer’s ‘Take a Lead’ campaign on livestock worrying and today, Thursday 21 June at the Union’s stand at the Royal Highland Show, Editor Ken Fletcher presented to Ms Harper a petition signed by 4,000 people calling for legislative changes in this area. In addition to the petition, 120 people completed a questionnaire which revealed that only 47 per cent reported of livestock worrying incidents were being reported to the police, with 53 per cent stating there was a financial loss that was not claimed for.

NFU Scotland has mapped out five areas it believes merit inclusion in any new legislative framework or guidance:

  • Livestock worrying becomes a recordable crime to allow for accurate measurement and monitoring of the issue and provide easy identification of repeat offenders.
  • An update of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) is needed to provide clearer guidance on accessing the countryside with dogs. NFUS believes that guidance should state that all dogs (except for working dogs) must be on a lead around sheep. This will send a strong message to both those taking access to the countryside and those who allow their dogs to stray.
  • Police Scotland should be provided with powers to issue Dog Control Notices. Currently, only local authority dog wardens have the power to issue Dog Control Notices, and as a result this mechanism is often unused. This will increase the use of this as a useful interim step. 
  • Police Scotland should have powers to obtain evidence, seize dogs and have dogs destroyed. These powers will assist in investigations and will prevent dogs from remaining in the custody of irresponsible owners – which experience has shown often results in a repeat offence.
  • Fines levied on offenders must be proportionate and full compensation should be provided for. NFUS considers that sanctions should include powers to disqualify offenders from dog ownership. This will act as a deterrent to dog owners and will also ensure that farmers can redress any resulting cost to their livelihood.

Martin Kennedy, Vice President of NFU Scotland added: “Despite a vast amount of awareness raising, livestock worrying remains a blight on Scottish livestock farming. Dogs themselves are not to blame, it's their irresponsible owners who need to wake up and understand the devastation this is causing.

“We are delighted to work with Emma Harper MSP on her proposal for a Private Members Bill and feel this is a real opportunity to clamp down on the issue once and for all – hopefully saving our members immeasurable heartache and considerable financial losses.

“We will engage strongly with the legislative process to ensure robust enforcement, and as always, we urge our members to continue to report all incidents of livestock worrying to Police Scotland.”  

Ken Fletcher, Editor of The Scottish Farmer commented: “We are delighted that Emma Harper MSP is to champion the principles behind our Take a Lead campaign – which we ran in conjunction with NFU Scotland and NSA Scotland.

“At the end of the day, we hope the Scottish Parliament will provide more clarity to the SOAC with regard to punishing those who allow out of control dogs to savage livestock, causing financial and mental stress as a result.

“This is not about the demonisation of dog owners, rather about the advancement of responsible dog ownership and that can only be a good thing for all adherents to the principles of the SOAC.”

Emma Harper, SNP MSP for South Scotland, stated: “Back in May at a Parliament National Sheep Association event that I was hosting, I announced my intention to bring forward a consultation on a proposed Members’ Bill to tackle livestock worrying. The trauma and devastating effects for all who are involved or witness livestock worrying needs to be addressed.”

Notes to Editors

  • A photograph of the presentation of the petition to Emma Harper MSP is available after 3pm on Thursday 21 June by emailing


Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108

Author: Ruth McClean

Date Published:

News Article No.: 86/18

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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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