Worrying: Calls for jail time to be made available to judges

NFU Scotland has called for lawmakers to allow judges to hand down prison sentences in order to punish the most extreme livestock worrying offences.

The comments were made in response to the proposed Members Bill on livestock worrying consultation, in which the union highlighted several cases where perpetrators avoided sanctions due to their inability to pay.

In its response, the union also urged the Scottish Government to ensure provision for full compensation based on actual losses suffered is provided for.

The union has reiterated the need for harsher penalties, including options for community payment orders and custodial sentences for those people who let their dogs attack livestock, in its response to a consultation for a proposed Members Bill on livestock worrying, brought forward by Emma Harper MSP.

In its response, NFU Scotland also:

  • Welcomed additional powers for Police Scotland – including the ability to issue Dog Control Notices;
  • Stressed that the suggested period of 24 hours whereby the person responsible for the dog which has attacked takes the pet to a vet for the purpose of evidence gathering, is too long;
  • Supported the extension of the definition of ‘livestock’ within the legislation to ‘all farmed livestock’, to take into account camelids and other farmed species;
  • Stated that the financial costs to victims are often understated and the real cost of this problem is likely to be much higher than published figures suggest.

NFU Scotland has stepped up its efforts to tackle livestock worrying over the last five years – including launching a 12-month national campaign.

This was launched in February to educate dog owners on their responsibilities, including having clear signage in place, and ensuring fences and hedges are in good order.

The campaign also informs dog walkers about letting go of their dogs if attacked by cows and to avoid fields with livestock.

The union has worked closely with politicians, including Emma Harper MSP, to raise the issue further and seek changes to the law to further protect farmers, crofters and those affected by livestock worrying.

Charlie Adam, vice president for NFU Scotland, explained that the union had spent a considerable amount of time, effort and resources on the issue.

“Efforts have been focussed on awareness raising amongst dog owners of their responsibilities, raising awareness amongst livestock keepers of their rights and lobbying local authorities and Police Scotland to use control mechanisms available to them,” he said.

“Current penalty levels do not act as enough of a deterrent to prevent dog owners from allowing their dogs to carry out livestock attacks. Increasing financial penalties would send a strong message that it is unacceptable to allow a dog to worry livestock.

“Additional investigative powers are also welcomed as this could assist in increasing the number of prosecutions that occur.

We believe that adding imprisonment to the range of sanctions for extremely severe cases or where an individual is a repeat offender is necessary.

“NFUS is also aware of several cases where perpetrators have avoided sanctions due to an inability to pay a financial penalty. Adding community payback orders will assist in ensuring that nobody is exempt from a form of sanction.”