A five-month multi-agency campaign to highlight the reality of Scotland's livestock attacks and trauma by dogs has been launched this week.
The aim of the campaign - "Your Dog - Your Responsibility” is to ensure dog owners understand the distressing nature as well as emotional and financial impacts such incidents can have.
The campaign was launched by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC).
Experience has shown that more often than not, livestock attacks and trauma occur when dog owners living, working or enjoying the rural environment, are not present.
Regardless of whether a dog has been let off a lead and not obeyed commands, whether someone else was in charge of the dog at that time; or through the increasing number of dogs left alone at home or in gardens then escaping, owners are reminded that they must take responsibility for the actions of their dog.
The campaign draws attention to other animals such as camelids, including alpacas and llamas, plus horses due to reports being received of these animals being attacked with increasing frequency as these animals are currently not included under the definition of 'livestock’.
Over the next few months, local events will be held around Scotland. It is hoped by having a harder-hitting message that reaches communities throughout Scotland, that it will encourage farmers and landowners to report all instances of attacks and trauma to their animals.
SPARC is made up of partners from across the rural community, including Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and NFU Mutual.
This new campaign complements work being done by rural organisations to combat livestock worrying and the impact it can have on farmers and landowners.
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, who chairs SPARC, said: "Further work requires to be done in highlighting not just the message about an owner or person responsible keeping a dog on a lead if there is livestock nearby, but a more general awareness message regarding responsible dog ownership, both in the home and when outside. To that end, SPARC is launching this campaign with key messages of of awareness raising, education and prevention."
Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland’s Head of Policy, added: “There is no excuse for dog owners allowing their dogs to worry livestock. The trauma and suffering caused by livestock worrying is a real and growing issue for the agricultural industry.
“NFU Scotland is pleased to be a part of this campaign. I am hopeful that by continuing to raise awareness of this problem, and the impact it can have, that we can encourage the general public to make sure that they are responsible for their dogs.”
NFU Mutual claims figures show that dog attacks on sheep and cattle in Scotland quadrupled in in the last two years and are running at an all-time high – costing Scottish agriculture over £300,000 a year.
It follows two MSPs, who are currently lobbying for stricter sentencing for livestock worrying crimes, meeting with the victim of one of Scotland's worst-ever cases of dogs attacking sheep.