Police set to be given more powers to crack down on livestock worrying

New plans to crack down on livestock worrying being brought forward via a Private Member’s Bill
New plans to crack down on livestock worrying being brought forward via a Private Member’s Bill

Police are set to be given further powers to crack down on livestock worrying as part of new proposals to secure more prosecutions.

Thérèse Coffey, the former Defra Secretary, is planning to introduce measures which she has said will make it easier for the police to catch irresponsible dog owners.

It follows the government’s decision earlier this year to pause plans for a raft of new animal welfare protections, which included measures to strengthen and expand laws on livestock worrying.

But new plans are being brought forward by Ms Coffey via a Private Member’s Bill which tend to be shorter and more narrow in scope than government legislation.

And while it still being finalised, it will not include all the measures the government had proposed for livestock worrying.

Expanding the list of farmed animals protected by the law to species such as emus and llamas was proposed by the government, but Ms Coffey said her Bill will instead focus on expanding police powers to protect "what is currently defined as livestock".

Responding to the development, NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay said the union was “grateful” for the new proposals.

He said that “farmers recognise the importance of good animal welfare and livestock worrying and dog attacks causes stress and aguish for farmers."

“For many years, we have been working with government and police leaders to agree the proposed legislation giving police more powers to investigate dog attacks on livestock," Mr Findlay said.

“We want people to enjoy the countryside and welcome members of the public being able to see where their food is produced, but dog owners must do this responsibly.

"No matter how in control dog owners think they are, they should always remain alert and dogs should always be kept on a lead around livestock."

Ms Coffey’s Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill aims to amend the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, and is currently listed for its second reading, the first debate on the Bill is in February 2024.

Government plans to strengthen the law on livestock worrying were stalled when when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was withdrawn in June this year.

Ms Coffey said: “We’re giving police more of the powers that they’ve asked for to be able to tackle irresponsible owners.

"That can be about increasing powers for seizure, giving them powers to get DNA, making it easier to collect evidence like dental impressions, so we’re going to make it easier for the police to do their job."

She said it was a “concern expressed by many farmers” that too many offenders are going unpunished, and said she hoped by strengthening the law it would become a “significant deterrent”.