Researchers call for changes to Scottish legislation to curb dog attacks

A new report by researchers at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) has called for changes to legislation
A new report by researchers at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) has called for changes to legislation

Researchers are calling for new changes to be made to Scottish legislation to help tackle livestock worrying, including increased fines and improved guidance for the public.

Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) says the Scottish government must review the wording of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) to reduce ambiguity and improve clarity.

This includes removing the option of keeping a dog under ‘close control’ and using only the term ‘keeping it on a short lead’.

The new report suggests creating an easy-to-read version of the SOAC with less text and more images to increase overall engagement and comprehension.

Materials are also needed for use in puppy training classes and the school curriculum, the report explains.

In addition, it highlights the need to discourage the use of the phrase ‘right to roam’ and instead promote the term ‘responsible access’ and calls for more resources to monitor and police the guidelines.

Co-author Dr Kate Lamont said: “Across Scotland, from large lowland farms near urban settlements to crofts in remote parts of the Highlands and Islands, there is a recurrent problem of dogs negatively impacting on livestock.

"From out-of-control dogs roaming out of sight of their owners to urban dogs barking excitedly when they see livestock for the first time, the negative impact may vary but can have devastating results."

In the report, researchers suggest the Scottish government to explore the reintroduction of dog licensing, with separate licenses for working dogs and pets.

Increasing the level of fines or imposing anti-social behaviour orders and community service sentences for dog-related offences are also needed.

Dr Lamont explained: “The term ‘livestock worrying’ is often more than a sheep or cow feeling anxious about a dog - it can be bloody and brutal, with biting, chasing to the point of exhaustion, miscarriage and killing commonly reported.

“Many dog owners are caught out unawares, are apologetic and upset by their dog’s behaviour, and will take steps to avoid repetition.

"However, others angrily defend what they describe as their right to roam – not realising that their right is for responsible access.

“Farmers and crofters ask that dogs be kept away from livestock and, where that is not possible, that owners keep their dogs on a short lead if there is livestock nearby."