21 Feb 2018
The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has spoken out in support of a national report highlighting the scale of dog attacks on livestock.
A report has been released today (Wednesday, February 21) by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), showing the problems faced by livestock owners, and the challenges police forces encounter in supporting farmers to deal with the issue.
Currently, dog owners are not obliged to make a report to the police if their dog attacked livestock, and attacks are not treated as a ‘recordable crime’ on police systems. As a result, there has been little reliable police data on the scale of the problem facing farmers and livestock owners.
The NPCC’s Wildlife and Rural Crime Working Group spent a year looking at the true extent of livestock worrying and attacks in five forces, and found that in these areas there were 1,705 recorded incidents at an estimated cost of £250,000.
The group has made several recommendations for change, including placing a legal obligation on dog owners to report that their dog has attacked livestock to the police, expanding the definition of the location where an offence can take place under current legislation is expanded, and for livestock worrying to become a recordable offence. It also asks for the definition of livestock to be amended to take in llamas, alpacas, emus and ostriches, which are subject to dog attacks but not currently covered by the law.
Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Mark Collins said: “We fully support this timely review, and the recommendations made within it, which we believe would benefit both the victims of these offences and the officers investigating them.
“There should be a requirement from the Home Office that police forces record attacks on livestock and on animals not currently listed as livestock as a recordable crime. The current situation means that we are missing the opportunity improve the data picture.
“Because livestock worrying is not a recordable offence, it is difficult to put an exact figure on the cost of these offences. However, in 206 it was estimated that around 15,000 sheep alone were killed by dogs, putting the cost to the farming sector at around £1.3 million – this is unsustainable for the farming community.
“I also believe it is fundamentally important that dog owners take responsibility if their animals attack livestock and report it immediately to police. This will allow the livestock owner to attend the scene more quickly, and could potentially save some of the animals involved.
“We have recently launched a rural crime strategy, which outlines our commitment to tackling crimes which occur in rural communities and supporting the victims of these crimes. We have also held the first of our quarterly Rural Crime Forums, which is a group formed by the force to bring partner agencies and organisations together to discuss and deal with rural matters. We are in the process of establishing county meetings, where more local issues can be discussed.”
Robyn Mason, Superintendent for Ceredigion and force lead for rural crime, added: “As a predominantly rural force, we are acutely aware of the financial and emotional impact of livestock worrying on their owners, and it is an offence we take very seriously at Dyfed-Powys Police.
“Officers who attend scenes of livestock worrying and attacks are often faced with badly injured animals that need to be destroyed due to the extent of their injuries, or miscarry their unborn lambs and calves. The dog involved can also end up being shot by the livestock owner, or later destroyed, which is understandably very upsetting for the owner.
“As well as this emotional effect on farmers and livestock owners, these animals are relied on for the income they generate, and an attack can have severe implications on a victim’s financial situation. This can further be compounded by an attack happening in lambing season, when the future livestock is also lost.
“Although farmers will quite often accept compensation from the dog owners, where the owner is identified, that doesn’t really take into account the ongoing costs to buy or breed replacements.
“We regularly put out messages on social media and in the press advising dog owners to keep their dogs on leads and to endure that their security at home is such that their dogs can’t escape. What we also highlight is that it is not always non-farming residents whose dogs attack livestock. We have had incidents reported where neighbouring farm dogs have been to blame.
“Although we try our best to educate dog owners, many still think it is ok to allow their dogs to roam freely in the countryside even when it’s obvious there are livestock in nearby fields. Private land is private land and unless it has ‘open access’ rights or a public right of way through it then people should not even be walking their dogs through fields, let alone leave them loose.”