DOG OWNERS face tough new penalties if they let their pets attack livestock in Scotland's countryside.

Rural police and farmers this week gathered to highlight the new legislation that is now in force – and the threat of fines up to £40,000 and prison sentences for owners whose dogs worry, kill or injure farmed animals.

SPARC, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, gathered at the Pentland Hills Regional Park, near Balerno, to launch the new campaign with the slogan ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’. The regional park is a popular location for dog walking and has unfortunately experienced a number of attacks on farm animals in recent years.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force in November last year, following a successful Members Bill brought by Emma Harper MSP, and after years of campaigning by NFU Scotland and The Scottish Farmer.

Under the new legislation, camelids such as llamas and alpacas, together with ostriches, game birds and farmed deer have been explicitly included in the law's protection, while also toughening the language used, substituting the term 'worrying' with the word 'attack'.

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The campaign highlighting the new laws will run through the lambing season, and will be run again in the autumn – and the need to communicate these new measures to the dog-owning public has been highlighted by a survey by NFU Mutual, which found that only 4% of Scottish dog owners surveyed knew they could now be fined up to £40,000 if their dog attacked livestock.

But while dog owners remain ignorant of the law, NFU Mutual's claims figures show that the cost of dog attacks on livestock rose by 50% in the first quarter of 2021 as the pandemic led to a surge in dog ownership and countryside visits.

NFUS rural business policy adviser Rhianna Montgomery commented: “With hundreds of incidents across Scotland each year, the protection of livestock is paramount for our members. The new Bill gives greatly enhanced powers to tackle this blight.

"Educating the public of good practice when taking access in the countryside with dogs, and the penalties now in place for those who are irresponsible, is imperative in reducing the number of livestock attacks.”

Police Scotland national rural crime co-ordinator, Inspector Alan Dron, said: “Attacks on livestock by dogs is an emotive issue that impacts on rural communities throughout Scotland therefore Police Scotland welcomes this new legislation which can hopefully assist in preventing, reducing and tackling such instances.

“Its introduction is timely given the increase in dog ownership experienced during Covid and the aim of the campaign is designed to educate and raise awareness amongst dog owners, whether new or experienced, that their dog is very much their responsibility.”

Mutual regional manager for Scotland, Mark McBrearty, said: “Dog attacks are causing appalling suffering to animals and huge anxiety for farmers and crofters as they deal with the aftermath. The new legislation is a huge step forward as it means farmers and police are able to trace offending dogs’ owners and impose serious penalties."