There’s an important piece of legislation making its way through Parliament at the moment that could significantly help our livestock farmers.   

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill, also known as the Livestock Worrying Bill, aims to strengthen existing legislation, which is decades old, to tackle the increasing number of reported sheep worrying incidents.

Living in this beautiful part of the world, we all have a responsibility to care for the animals that share our land and that means keeping dogs on leads around livestock (and horses).

During the pandemic dog ownership skyrocketed, and you can completely understand why. As humans we all crave companionship, and for many people a dog was their only company for those long months of lockdown.

However, one of the downsides of this trend has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of dog attacks on farmland since 2019. In a recent survey by the National Sheep Association, almost three-quarters of respondents had reported at least one sheep-worrying event in the last year. And the cost to farmers of these attacks is estimated to be £2.4 million according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual.

The damage caused by out-of-control dogs cannot be overstated. 

The stress of being chased by a dog can cause a sheep to die or miscarry their lambs. Added to this financial and emotional stress, is the abuse farmers are often subjected to when asking dog owners to put their animals on a lead.

Sadly we have seen further distressing images shared on social media of injured or dead animals following the recent lambing season.

Some dog owners simply aren’t aware of the rules around farmland so one aspect of this new legislation will be to promote responsible dog ownership. It will also give the police greater powers to seize and detain dogs suspected of a livestock attack and allow them to collect evidence in the form of DNA samples to be used in prosecutions. Fines for those that are successfully prosecuted will be significant.

Llamas and alpacas, who we are seeing in greater numbers in our countryside, including the beautiful ones in Bentley village, will also be protected by the legislation. 

The Bill, which is sponsored by former Defra Secretary, Therese Coffey, will go through report stage and third reading on May 17. Hopefully, this universally supported bill will soon be on the statute book.