Police given greater powers to tackle livestock worrying

Livestock worrying can be a traumatic problem for animals and farmers. As lambing season approaches, the CLA’s Claire Wright explains how a new livestock worrying bill is welcome news
Sheep in field
Sheep are often the most common victim of livestock worrying

Some of the most harrowing calls we get at the CLA are the ones that relate to livestock worrying. In many cases the farmer has usually found the aftermath of an attack, ranging from severely distressed livestock and injured animals, through to scenes of absolute carnage. Nowadays in new editions of the farming press, it is rare to not see a story of another incident of livestock worrying.

The horror of such incidents is not something that is easily forgotten. The news headlines tell some of the story; 30 sheep killed by a pair of dogs in Warwickshire, another 22 ewes killed near Wrexham by an XL bully dog and a further 28 sheep killed in Herefordshire. These are only the tip of the iceberg. Whilst sheep are most frequently the victims of dog attacks there are also reports of cattle being catastrophically injured whilst being chased, including the story of Gladis, a Highland cow who died with her unborn calf after being chased off a cliff in Dorset.

Tackling the problem

The Animals Act 1971 contains provisions which allow a person to shoot a dog to protect livestock in some circumstances and subject to strict legal tests (see CLA Guidance Note 11-17). Yet despite the huge toll that such attacks take on the welfare of livestock, until now the police have been left largely impotent to take action against the owners of the dogs responsible unless they have been caught in the act.

The announcement last week that the UK Government will be supporting the Private Member’s bill brought forward by Dr Thérèse Coffey is welcome news for livestock farmers.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill will give the police greater powers to tackle livestock worrying and some measures have been included to modernise existing legislation. For example, alpacas will be included in the definition of livestock for the purposes of this bill. There will also be measures to allow the police wider powers of entry in relation to such incidents; to be able to collect DNA samples from dogs suspected of involvement in livestock worrying incidents and powers to seize and detain dogs after serious incidents of attacks on livestock.

CLA reaction and advice

The CLA welcomes this announcement that tangible measures will now be taken to help police combat this distressing crime. However, to help the police to help us, we need to play our part by encouraging all who come to the countryside to read and understand the Countryside Code, especially the sections relating to dogs.

In response to the government’s announcement of greater powers for police to tackle livestock worrying, CLA President Victoria Vyvyan said: “The CLA has long lobbied for greater powers for police to tackle livestock worrying and welcomes this announcement.”

Attacks on livestock cause great distress to farmers and threaten their livelihood. Farm animals worth £1 million were killed or injured by dogs in 2022, a 50% increase since 2019

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan

“As lambing season approaches, the CLA is telling dog owners that they must keep their dogs under close control, especially near livestock, and to stick to public rights of way. If you see an incident please report it to police.”

In addition, if you have been the victim of a livestock worrying incident and would like to be a CLA case study, then do contact National Access Adviser, Claire Wright (claire.wright@cla.org.uk) or your local regional office.

CLA Public Rights of Way signs available

The CLA has produced several CLA public rights of way signs to help guide the public while they enjoy the countryside.

Key contact:

Claire Wright (9).jpg
Claire Wright National Access Adviser, London