Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is urging local people to submit their views on proposals to strengthen penalties on dog-owners whose pets attack livestock.
Mr Cameron said: “The Scottish Parliament is undertaking a consultation on proposals which include banning convicted persons of owning a dog as well as the introduction of fines of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment.
“I welcome this initiative as we have had some serious incidents locally of livestock worrying which has caused great suffering to the animals concerned, as well as a loss of income to local farmers and crofters.
“The consultation is open until 28th August.”
The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee had earlier issued a call for views on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which aims to “strengthen and update the law” in relation to so-called “livestock worrying”.
The Member’s Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Emma Harper MSP would provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence and increase the maximum penalty to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, or both.
It would also allow a court to make an order disqualifying convicted persons, for such period as the court sees fit, from owning or keeping a dog, or preventing them for taking dogs onto agricultural land on which livestock is present.
The Bill provides police and inspectors with new powers to seize a dog for the purpose of identifying its owner or gathering evidence, and further extends the definition of “livestock” to reflect a more up-to-date list of the species now farmed in Scotland, such as llamas, alpacas, ostriches, farmed deer, buffalo, and enclosed game birds.
Committee Convener, Edward Mountain MSP, said: “Dog attacks cause suffering to farm animals, resulting in distress and significant financial cost to farmers.
“Emma Harper believes the current law in relation to livestock worrying is out of date and that tougher enforcement powers and penalties are needed to act as a deterrent.
“The purpose of the committee’s call for evidence is to understand the need for further legislation in this area and to seek views on whether the additional powers and increased punishments proposed are sufficient and proportionate.”
The Bill was introduced by Emma Harper MSP on 14 May 2020. It updates the existing law on “livestock worrying”, in the main, by amending the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. The Bill:
- increases the maximum penalty to a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months
- allows the courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on agricultural land
- gives the police greater powers to investigate and enforce livestock worrying offence, including going onto land to identify a dog, seize it and collect evidence from it
- allows other organisations to be given similar powers
- extends the “livestock worrying” offence to cover additional types of farmed animal
- renames the offence as that of “attacking or worrying livestock”, with the intention of emphasising how serious it can be.