Argyll man sentenced to 80 hours community service for dog attack

An Argyll man has been sentenced to 80 hours community service for a sheep attack which cost the farmer involved £4,100.

Following on the case, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland is calling for harsher penalties for those who let their dogs attack livestock.

17 sheep injured in dog attack

On March 4, 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 dog 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.

Rowley previously pled guilty to and on Tuesday, September 11, Sheriff Thomas Ward sentenced him to an 80-hour community payback 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.

During the court hearing on Tuesday, Sheriff Thomas Ward told the court he acknowledged that Rowley was in no position to pay either a fine 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 Rowley from keeping dogs.

He took the extent of the dog attack very seriously but recognised that he was limited to what sentence he could make.

The victim, Brian Walker of Carloonan Farm, said that the outcome of the case has been disappointing, but that he is not surprised.

‘Let down by legislation’

He said: “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 farming 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.”

Walker urged anyone suffering with troublesome dogs to contact the local dog warden to seek a Dog Control Notice (DCN).

“This is the only means available of being able to control dogs causing persistent problems with livestock at the present time,” he said.

“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 added: “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.

“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.”