NFU calls for increased fines for sheep worrying crimes

The NFU says increased fines can 'act as an appropriate deterrent'
The NFU says increased fines can 'act as an appropriate deterrent'

New police powers to tackle the scourge of livestock worrying should have included increased fines, the NFU has said.

Improved powers will be given to the police in England and Wales to respond to dog attacks more effectively, the government said on Tuesday (8 June).

Measures included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill include increasing the scope of livestock species and locations covered by the law, such as llamas and donkeys.

And new locations will include roads and paths, as long as the livestock have not strayed onto a road.

Police will also gain more power to seize dogs after particularly serious incidents, if there is a reason to believe that dog might pose an ongoing risk to livestock.

The NFU welcomed the bill, highlighting how farmers across the UK had seen such incidents increase over the past year.

The changes introduced follows years of campaigning on the issue - nearly 20,000 people recently signed the union's open letter to support changes to legislation.

But the NFU said the government should have 'gone further' in tackling the crime by implementing increased fines.

Livestock worrying penalties in Scotland were recently extended to imprisonment and £40,000 fines.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: "This can act as an appropriate deterrent and would also reflect the financial loss to the farm business as a result of an attack.

"Dog attacks on livestock are horrific and can have a massive impact on farm businesses, both practically but also emotionally for a farming family."

Mr Roberts added that the government should also have issued a 'clear rule' for dogs to always be kept on a lead when near livestock.

"We believe the current wording that a dog has to be under ‘close control’ around livestock causes confusion for dog owners, farmers and the police," he said.

Figures show that the cost of livestock worrying increased by over 10% to £1.3m last year as the pandemic saw a surge in people visiting the countryside.

A recent survey by the National Sheep Association's (NSA) showed the continued increase year-on-year of these attacks, underlining the significant emotional cost experienced by farmers.