A campaign highlighting the “huge distress” caused by dogs worrying livestock has been launched by police and partners in the rural community.
The five-month multi-agency campaign “Your Dog – Your Responsibility” aims to ensure dog owners understand how traumatic attacks can be for livestock, and highlight the emotional and financial impact such incidents can have on farmers and others involved.
Most livestock attacks happen when dog owners are not present and the dog has perhaps been let off the lead, has not obeyed commands or escaped from a garden.
Dog attacks on sheep and cattle in Scotland are estimated to cost Scottish agriculture more than £300,000 a year, insurer NFU Mutual said.
The campaign was launched on Tuesday in Midlothian by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) which is made up of partners from across the rural community, including Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and NFU Mutual.
Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, who chairs SPARC, said: “Tackling livestock attacks is an important issue and remains a priority for SPARC.
“Further work requires to be done in highlighting not just the message about an owner or person responsible keeping a dog on a lead if there is livestock nearby, but a more general awareness message regarding responsible dog ownership, both in the home and when outside.
“To that end, SPARC is launching this campaign with key messages of of awareness raising, education and prevention.”
The campaign also draws attention to other animals such as camelids, including alpacas and llamas, plus horses following an increase in reports of these animals being attacked, although they are not currently included in the definition of livestock.
Over the next few months local events will be held around Scotland concluding in May at Conic Hill, Balmaha in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
It is hoped the campaign will encourage farmers and landowners to report all instances of attacks and trauma to their animals.
Karen Ramoo, of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We want everyone to enjoy our countryside but it is important that dog owners exercise caution when it comes to our rural areas.
“It is vitally important that owners understand the huge distress that is caused by dog attacks on livestock, whether it be the pain these animals suffer or the emotional and financial distress that can be caused to farmers.
“Despite high profile campaigns over many years we are still seeing too many incidents of livestock attacks and trauma in our rural areas, often where dogs are being let off the leash or being left unattended and escaping from homes and gardens.
“Many of these incidents occur due to a mis-held belief that their person’s dog is not capable of attacking livestock. Our message is to not take that risk and make sure your dog is well controlled throughout our countryside.”
Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland’s head of policy, said: “There is no excuse for dog owners allowing their dogs to worry livestock.
“The trauma and suffering caused by livestock worrying is a real and growing issue for the agricultural industry.”