North Yorkshire Police has played a key role in the publication of a new report which highlights the scale of dog attacks on livestock, and the challenges faced by police Forces in supporting farmers to deal with the issue.
North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, Dave Jones, who is also the national policing lead on wildlife crime and rural affairs, has been instrumental in pulling together the working group of five police Forces (North Yorkshire plus Devon and Cornwall, Sussex, North Wales and Hertfordshire) to look at the true extend of livestock worrying in the countryside.
The forces analysed data on their systems from September 2013 to 2017 and found that:
- There were 1705 recorded incidents of livestock worrying and attacks in the five force areas
- 1928 animals were killed, and 1614 injured – at an estimated cost of £250,000.
- 11 per cent of the incidents involved repeat offenders – owners or walkers whose dog had worried or caused damage to livestock before.
- The dog owner was not present at the time of the attack in the majority of incidents, showing that the issue goes beyond keeping dogs on a lead.
The NPCC’s Wildlife and Rural Crime Working Group considered the findings and identified the following challenges faced by police forces when dealing with sheep worrying:
- Many animals such as llamas, alpacas, emus and ostriches are subject to dog attacks, but are not defined as livestock meaning they are not covered by the law.
- Attacks are only unlawful in particular locations. For example, if an attack takes place on a public lane it is not classed as unlawful.
- Police officers are unable to search a dog-owner’s home to search for and seize a dog that has worried or caused damage to livestock.
- Businesses such as kennels are not legally responsible for attacks, even if these attacks are carried out by dogs in their care.
- Dog owners do not have a legal responsibility to report when their dog has attacked livestock.
- Livestock worrying is not a crime which is regularly recorded on police systems, missing the opportunity improve the data picture.
Commenting on the report, Chief Constable Dave Jones said:
“This project provides hard data showing livestock worrying is a very significant issue for farmers that impacts on their livelihoods.
“We need dog-owners to take responsibility for their animals – not just by putting their dogs on a lead when out walking, but by preventing them from escaping from home and causing damage to livestock. We need livestock owners to report incidents so that we can gather intelligence and launch investigations. Above all, we need the powers to tackle this problem effectively and an overhaul of the outdated and sometimes ineffective rules surrounding livestock worrying.
“By working to tackle these barriers at a national level, we hope we can make a positive difference to our communities here in North Yorkshire.”