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Tougher Sanctions Urgently Needed for Livestock Worrying Culprits

Argyll man sentenced to 80 hours community service for sheep attack which cost farmer £4,100

NFU Scotland is once again seeking harsher penalties for those who let their dogs attack livestock, following the sentencing of an Argyll man earlier this week.

On 4 March 2018, Nicholas Rowley, of East Princes Street, Rothesay, allowed four dogs he had responsibility for to seriously injure and kill a total of 17 sheep on farmland near Inveraray. The total damages of the attack are estimated to be around £4,100. The injuries inflicted on the sheep during this attack were so severe that photographs taken afterwards were deemed unsuitable for publication.

Mr Rowley previously pled guilty to this offence at Lochgilphead Sheriff Court under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, Section 1(1) and (6).

On Tuesday 11 September, Sheriff Thomas Ward sentenced Mr Rowley, formerly of Lochgilphead, to an 80-hour community pay back order to be completed within three months.

NFU Scotland has stepped up its efforts in recent years on livestock worrying, calling for tougher sanctions for those who let their dogs attack livestock. This is one of five key asks it mapped out for inclusion in any future legislative framework or guidance.
This, along with other stakeholder work, has led to Emma Harper MSP to take forward a Private Members Bill within the Scottish Parliament, supporting these calls. NFU Scotland will be sending a briefing to Ms Harper on this case to back up her efforts for a Private Members Bill.

During the court hearing on Tuesday, Sheriff Thomas Ward told the court he acknowledged that Mr Rowley was in no position to pay either a fine and/or any compensation to the affected farmer. He expressed frustration that under the current legislation he was unable to impose a prison sentence, nor could he disqualify 56-year-old Mr Rowley from keeping dogs.

He took the extent of the crime very seriously but recognised that he was limited to what sentence he could make.    
        
The victim, Brian Walker (pictured) of Carloonan Farm, said that the outcome of the case has been disappointing, but that he is not surprised. He commented: “This incident was particularly stressful. Although we took a heavy financial loss, this has not been my focus. The cost of the damage is so high as these ewe hoggs would have been used on the farm for breeding for years to come.

“We have done everything by the book since this happened to ensure if was fairly, and properly put through the justice system. However, even with doing this we have been let down by antiquated legislation.

“It is now evident that the faming community in Scotland doesn’t have any protection from instances of livestock worrying as the sanctions dog owners face are far too lenient to deter them from doing this again.

“The local police and dog warden have been fantastic throughout this, and I really thank them for the time, effort and support they’ve given.

“Whilst there’s not much I can do to change the outcome, I will be fully supporting NFU Scotland and Emma Harper in their efforts to bring legislative framework into the 21st Century in the hope others don’t have to go through what we have.

“For those suffering problems with dogs near or disturbing their livestock and posing a potential threat to their livestock contact your local dog warden to seek a Dog Control Notice (DCN) to be put in place where appropriate. This is the only means available of being able to control dogs causing persistent problems with livestock at the present time.  I believe this has stopped another attack by these dogs.

“Unfortunately, once these dogs have a taste for it, they are likely to attack again, and I fear the next time it may not be an animal, but someone’s child.”
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland President commented: “This case is a prime example of the importance of full and proportionate compensation for those impacted by livestock worrying, a key ask of NFU Scotland in any future framework.
It was noted during the hearing the maximum fine that could be imposed was £1,000 under current legislation, when the actual costs to the farmer were over £4,000.

“Livestock worrying continues to be a blight on Scottish agriculture, and greater sanctions and further public awareness are needed so dog owners are fully aware of their responsibilities to keep their animals under control.

“Despite the dogs in this case being subject to a DCN, the individual remains with four of his dogs in his care – this is a real worry for local farmers.  

“The case also demonstrates that it should be possible for an individual to be remanded in custody, should they allow their dog to attack livestock – an inability to pay a financial penalty should not by default result in a lesser sentence being passed.

“We are disappointed with the outcome, however, we do fully appreciate that in a case like this it is only through legislative changes that those who are responsible be held fully accountable for their actions.”

Inspector Julie McLeish of Police Scotland commented: “This was a particularly distressing incident for everyone involved and it is disappointing that despite the high-profile campaign livestock worrying still occurs.  Police Scotland will continue to work with partners to both educate the public and fully investigate any incidents with enforcement action being taken when we can.”

Notes to Editors

  • A photograph of farmer Brian Walker is available by emailing media@nfus.org.uk
  • In May, NFU Scotland wrote to the Scottish Government with five key asks designed to tackle the ongoing blight of livestock worrying. For more information visit: https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/news/nfus-gets-tough-on-livestock-worrying

    South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has recently announced that she will bring forward a proposal for a Private Members Bill.  Alongside its lobbying activity, NFU Scotland supported The Scottish Farmer’s ‘Take a Lead’ campaign on livestock worrying with a petition signed by 4,000 people calling for legislative changes in this area handed over in June.


Ends

Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108

Author: Ruth McClean

Date Published:

News Article No.: 133/17


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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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