The National Sheep Association (NSA) has said that they welcome any measures that will give strength to legislation on livestock worrying by dogs.
However, the sheep farming association believes that strengthening police powers to seize dogs should have been further backed up by a significant increase in the maximum fines that could be imposed.
Following the announcement that stricter measures to crack down on livestock worrying were to be introduced in England and Wales through the Kept Animals Bill introduced to Parliament earlier this week, NSA chief executive Phil Stocker commented:
"This was an opportunity to create a major deterrent to this antisocial behaviour by substantially increasing the maximum applicable fine alongside more proactive measures to prevent attacks occurring.
Defra and ministers responsible for English legislation are missing a trick in not taking the opportunity to increase fines in line with what the Scottish Parliament has done."
The provisions of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021, which received Royal Assent on May 5, 2021, includes imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, a fine not exceeding £40,000, or possibly both.
A person who commits a similar offence in England under this new proposed Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill is liable to a summary conviction and a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale – currently £1000.
There are significant and very welcome improvements contained in the Animal Welfare [Kept Animals] Bill to support the police and rural crime teams after an offence has occurred, but very little to reduce the number of incidents that are increasing year-on-year.
"In fact, the lack of clarity in defining 'under close control' puts farmers and dog owners in a difficult, potentially conflicting position," he concluded.