Dog attacks: Calls for dedicated police units in Wales

Farmers in Wales have called for an increased police presence across the whole of rural Wales following a dog attack on sheep at a family farm in Glamorgan.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is pushing for tough new laws for irresponsible dog owners in response.

More than 10 months after catching a dog owner trying to retrieve his dog from a field of 40 store lambs, there has still been no action against the owner, despite two of the sheep being badly injured because of the dog attack.

It is believed the same dog owner had already allowed pets to stray the previous year, which had chased sheep in the same field.

The only solution to the problem is to tackle dog attacks in the way that North Wales police have, setting up a dedicated unit to police the rural parts of every county.

“In addition, the FUW is reminding dog owners of its ‘Your dog, your responsibility’ campaign,” said Dr. Hazel Wright, FUW senior policy officer.

She pointed to North Wales Police and its rural team – the only force to maintain records and statistics, which show that 89% of all dog attacks on livestock happen when they stray from home.

As the law stands currently there is very little that can be done to recompense the farmer or ensure that the dog involved is prevented from re-offending, and it is these people we want to target.

“The FUW believes introducing new laws, which will act as a powerful deterrent to prevent dog owners allowing their animals to stray,” said Dr. Wright.

There were 449 cases of livestock attacks between 2013 and 2017 in North Wales alone, under-reporting by farmers due to a lack of confidence in police and the legal system continues to be a problem.

Approximately 15,000 sheep were killed by dogs in 2016. At £75 a carcase, it makes a total loss of £1.3 million pounds. Other losses include abortions, loss of breeding stock and the cost of veterinary bills.

“52 dogs have been shot attacking livestock in North Wales in the past four years, a tragedy for the farmer whose stock has been killed, but also for the dog owner who loses the family pet when it is put down,” said Dr. Wright.

No farmer wants any animal to be killed needlessly, and the lack of substantive legal action means that there is no real deterrent for the dog owner.

“Only four main pieces of law cover livestock attacks, all are antiquated and do not fit with current agricultural practices or the seriousness of the offence.

“It appears education alone cannot solve this complex issue, but hopefully changes in legislation to ensure the seriousness of this offence is understood, can give Welsh and English police the powers to properly deal with offenders and provide a deterrent which means that less stock and fewer family pets are lost,” Dr. Wright added.

The FUW is calling for:

  • Mandatory recording of dog attacks on livestock by all Welsh police forces;
  • Changes to the current limited and outdated fines – currently a maximum non-imprisonable offence with a maximum fine of up to £1000;
  • Fines levied on offenders should be proportionate and should allow for full compensation;
  • Police forces granted the power to obtain DNA samples from suspect dogs;
  • Powers to confiscate dogs;
  • Legal responsibility for dog owners to report attacks to prevent badly injured sheep being left to suffer;
  • Power to ban an owner from owning another dog;
  • Powers of dog destruction after conviction with the 1953 Act.