Farmers, vets and police officers in parts of England and Wales are to get early evidence kits to collect canine DNA at the scene of livestock attacks as part of a new research project.

The forensic research project is being led by Liverpool John Moores University and ultimately aims to help farmers “foil sheep attacks”.

According to Dr. Nick Dawnay, who is heading up the project, the early evidence kits which he developed, will enable canine DNA to be collected in minutes at the scene of any attack.

Dr. Dawnay said: “Our rural crime police can’t always attend scenes in a timely manner so quite often no forensic sample is collected from the injured or deceased livestock”.

He said the timing of sample collection is important as the “DNA of an offending dog will not last long on an animal exposed to the elements or on a dead carcass that has been disturbed or moved.”


The evidence kits are the latest part of the Canine DNA Recovery Project (CDnaRP), launched in 2021, which aims to develop the best methods for the collection and analysis of canine DNA from livestock and wildlife which have been attacked.

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said UK farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured and killed by dog attacks last year.

“Not only do these attacks cause unnecessary suffering to livestock, but can traumatise farmers and their families as they deal with the aftermath,” she added.

Sheep attacks

Latest evidence also suggests that sheep attacks by dogs are on the increase and becoming “the norm for sheep farmers” according to the National Sheep Association (NSA).

Binns said: “All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“That is why it is so important people keep their pets on leads wherever livestock may be present.”

Dog DNA kits

The new early evidence kits to enable canine DNA to be collected more quickly will be distributed this summer across 10 regions in the UK and Wales through participating police forces, NFU Mutual, the National Sheep Association, and the National Farmers Union Wales.

The kits are currently for “research use only” and any future use for evidence collection is subject to validation and acceptance by the UK Criminal Justice System.

According to Dave Allen, North Wales Police and NPCC livestock offence working group secretary, new legislation for England and Wales is currently making its way through parliament.

These will give police offers the power to take a DNA sample from a suspected dog to compare to canine DNA left at an attack scene.

Allen added: “These kits are an exciting development and can be utilised for an issue that causes major concern to our UK rural communities”.