21st March 2017
Roundtable: Livestock Worrying & Dog Control
Prof Tim Morris (AHWBE), Terena Plowright (Sheepwatch), Phil Stocker (National Sheep Association), Rob Taylor and Dave Allen (North Wales Police), Charles Sercombe (NFU), Olivia Midgley (Farmers Guardian), Claire Horton (Battersea Dogs & Cats Home/AHWBE), Gudrun Ravetz (BVA), Paula Boydon (Dogs Trust), Alison Hallas (Ramblers Association), Ed Hayes (Kennel Club), William Naylor (North Yorkshire Police Commissioner), Andrew Gillet (CLA), William Hunt farmer, Helen Moore (Agria)), Dr Hazel Wright (FUW), Jim Barrington (Countryside Alliance), Sharon Cooksey (Bayer), Chris Hodgins (Locke Farm), Professor Steve Dean (CFSG), Stephen Jenkinson (The Kennel Club)
Angela Smith MP, Rebecca Pow MP, Neil Parish MP, James Davies MP, Bill Wiggin MP, Damian Hinds MP, David Hanson MP, Lord de Mauley, Lord Trees, Baroness Mallalieu, Baroness Masham,
North Yorkshire, Sussex, Devon and Cornwall, and Hertfordshire police are reviewing their Crime
records and will file a report to Defra on the scale of the problem in September. APGAW will meet
again at this point to look at the figures and bring them to the attention of Ministers.
Interim focused working meetings on legislation and prevention/education will also be considered.
Sheepwatch will also continue to encourage reporting and will keep in touch with APGAW MPs to let them know how it is progressing.
Once evidence has been compiled, thought can be given to a Private Members Bill to update legislation to tackle this problem in a proactive rather than reactive way.
APGAW, with associate members Kennel Club, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, will continue to consider responsible dog ownership and messaging on dog control around livestock.
- Total estimate extrapolated from Welsh figures: 15,000 sheep killed by dogs in 2016
- Approximate value of £75 per carcass totalling around £1.3 million cost to the farming and wider industry
- Most attacks take place in January, February and Match resulting in loss of lambs and stress to ewes.
- Dog attacks are a welfare issue for the sheep attacked, and often the sign of a neglected dogs (whom may be shot)
- There are often severer emotional impacts on sheep farmers after dog attack on their animals
- Underreporting is a big problem and there is a need to encourage farmers to report to police to enable full data collection. As livestock worrying is classified as a non-notifiable crime by the Home Office it is not reported on police crime systems leading to problems getting clear figures.
- There is a need to educate dog owners on the risks their dog poses to livestock and to understand that the family pet can be a canine predator irrelevant of breed. This education can be done by wider stakeholders including welfare organisations, veterinary organisations, petfood retailers and thought needs to be given to getting messages over to those who do not engage in the obvious ways.
- Some local authorities are restricting public access and green space in urbanising areas as dog control measures, but this can drive walkers into farming areas. There needs to be work done on ensuring councils do not make quick decisions to restrict dogs which then causes other problems.
- What is the extent of the problem of livestock worrying and how is it being addressed by enforcement bodies?
North Wales Police – Rob Taylor & PC Dave Allen
Rob Taylor – Team manager for North Wales police with substantial experience in rural crime, North Wales have adopted a dedicated rural crime team. It became apparent in September 2013 that sheep attacks were high. North Wales was the first force recording statistics of those attacks with 400 separate incidents in 3.5 years. That equates to 1 attack in North Wales alone every 3 days. 30 animals were killed in one attack but more commonly it is one or two or three. Horrific nature of attacks can leave some animals still alive with face removed, innards removed and this is common. 20% of attacks are by husky dogs. There has been a surge in this over the last few years which maybe down to TV programmes. The North Wales police have run campaigns with around 1.4 million interactions per month on Twitter and have produced a video on this subject.
PC Dave Allen – Dedicated officer working on the ground on this issue. The 1953 Dogs Protection and Livestock Act is not a bad Act in that a person who owns a dog that does harm to livestock on farm land is guilty of an offence and it does what it says on the tine but the issue is the powers available to the police and court. It is a summary only offence and so only heard at a Magistrates Court which has limited sentencing power. One farmer lost 11 dairy cattle through an attack and it cost him thousands of thousands. There are no powers in the Act to stop a dog owner getting another dog. Local authorities cannot prosecute under this Act, it is not a notifiable crime and there are no universal statistics available meaning there is no national picture of the situation.
Sergeant Alex Butterfield (North Yorkshire Police)
North Yorkshire are NPCC leads for crime and rural affairs. The public and colleagues have identified this as an issue colleague which is increasing. In order to ask for legislative changes there is a need to understand what is happening and why, Therefore, a trial has been put together with Sussex, Hertfordshire, Devon and Cornwall and North Wales to collect data and put together a full picture. Along with that national guidance and improving practice is being developed. What is required is prevention, enforcement and use of existing legislation within in a partnership approach as well as identifying where the gaps are in information and data. Public support is very important, rural communities are being shown to have lost confidence in the police and are not reporting crime. The police need them to report these incidences and engage with us so we can develop an understanding and a full picture. There is a large gap in public perception around responsible dog ownership; they need to know their breeds and look for fit for purpose dogs and understand which ones suit small dwellings. A lot of the incidents are where farm land meets residential.
Sheepwatch UK – Terena Plowright
The impact is not just only on the livestock but also on the farmer after an attack. A Facebook page which got 250,000 comments within one week proved there is a problem. It is not just about dead sheep, if a dog chases a pregnant sheep it is likely she will abort those lambs. In Sussex 116 died sheep in one hit without a single dog bite because they crushed each other to death in fear. The highest number of attacks is in February, followed by January and March. Underreporting is a huge issue because the farmers have lost faith in the system to make reports. 49 dogs were shot last year so not just sheep suffering It is also about dogs because those chasing are not being kept in control and are probably not being kept properly which means they are at risk from traffic accidents or other incidents. Labradors, Collies and Great Danes were amongst the commonly seen breeds involved in sheep worrying. 2474 dead sheep were recorded on a form put on Facebook and when compared with the incidents the police had recorded in North Wales it was estimated nationwide 15,000 sheep were killed and that does not include lambs being aborted or injuries. Police need to have the ability to record true numbers of attacks and not put into criminal damage attacks. Farmer need to be encouraged to send in reports and to be properly compensated for losses. Proper space and education for dog walkers on where and how they walk their dogs safely would assist.
- How much of a problem is livestock worrying for farmers and what can they do to tackle it?
NFU – Charles Sercombe
A sheep farmer who has experienced sheep worrying. It is a growing problem owing to increasing urbanisation. The urban fringe is where the vast majority of these attacks take place. It is generally down to irresponsible dog ownership where the dogs are not being cared for properly. The worst incidents of livestock worrying are when the dog or dogs escapes not when on a walk. Where we have an issue is encouraging more famers to be active in reporting. Lots of farmers have been treated poorly by the police, there are forces who do something about it but they are in the minority. The NFU is actively lobbying with the Police and Crime Commissioners to get this further up the agenda. Evidence and proof is required. The countryside is open to all and NFU wants to promote that but it must be done safety and securely. The legislation is very unyielding at the moment and there was one case where the attack was filmed on the phone and the police still did not do anything about it. Effective fit for purpose legislation is required as the current laws are out of date. Powers to seize need to be improved and there is a need to make people aware of the use of the countryside so that it works for all. Evidence is the key to understanding the issue and getting the right legislation
National Sheep Association – Phil Stocker
The NSA picked up on this over just over 4 years ago from members contacting us who were finding it difficult to get any recourse. The NSA work with the NFU and Farmers Guardian on the Take the Lead initiative to engage with farmers to make sure they were listened to and get them to report cases. This was driven by the need to educate the dog owning community on responsible ownership alongside raising awareness with police and crime authorities. NSA does annual surveys amongst members and it is not just about the death of livestock. In 2014 40% of attacks resulted in veterinary attention, sheep have been aborted or reabsorbed their lambs from stress. We have videos of sheep being chased over the edge of cliffs, into fences breaking their necks or into rivers where they have drowned. In 2016 surveys found sheep worrying is causing anxiety to farmers with 44% having received abuse from dog owners, 35% felt they could not leave their farms at weekends and 30% said they linked livestock worrying directly to pressure. Very few farmers carry guns and most would not want to shoot. Effective policing and prosecution is needed to act as a deterrent. The ability to warn the public about the severity of the crime is also required.
Farmers Guardian – Olivia Midgley
Reducing the number of attacks has been the aim of Farmers Guardian. This is a problem which is getting worse. Since 211 attacks have risen by 93% and we know, owing to some police forces and farmers not reporting, that the figure must be higher. Readers have called on us to take action so we launched ‘Take the Lead’ an initiative focused on responsible dog ownership. The countryside is a place of work and we have a food and farming industry worth billions. The Take the Lead message is needed to help to cut attacks and consequently there has been work on raising awareness by speaking at events and nailing red warning signs onto gates and fenceposts. There has been success getting into dog magazines over 70,000 and a recognition of the need to not alienate dog people. Many dog owners have been surprised at the scale of the problem and were unaware of the consequences of sheep worrying.
CLA – Andrew Gillett
For CLA members it is a financial and emotional issue. Members do not want to be put in the position of having to shoot a dog which is the ultimate way of dealing with it. They want to see preventative action and it is useful to look at how other countries deal with public access and its impact on agriculture. In countries similar to the UK in terms of agriculture such as Ireland, Netherlands and France, they do not have those dense public networks running by farming fields. There needs to be a more pragmatic approach looking at more flexible network such as allowing farmer to temporarily divert rights of way from fields where they graze sheep subject to sensible safeguards. That would also deal with liability of public access. Countryside Rights of Way Act has various restrictions of the way access should be taken. Schedule 2 under the Act states you should keep dogs on leads in areas where there is livestock, that would be a concise clear message if that was spread out on the Rights of Way network and you could make that law. Additionally, it is worth looking at Section 135A Highways Act 1980 which was enacted but not commenced. it allowed for temporary restrictions in relation to dangerous works and contained lots of safeguards and would not take much to amend it for this area.
Farmers’ Union of Wales – Dr Hazel Wright
There is no central recording of attacks and there has to be positive outcome to enable reporting and recording because without this there is no evidence. Reporting is needed to evaluate what strategies are needed and then whether they are effective. 400 reported attacks which was extrapolated to 15,00 attacks across the UK. According to HCC the value of a carcase is £75 so if that figure is multiplied by 15,000 it is £1.3m which is lost by farmers a year and then all the relating industries such as the wider supply chain as there is no added value. Everyone loses out not just the farmer. It is vital to think wider than just the farming community and dog walkers. Dog friendly places, tourist attractions, vets practices, pet shops all have a role to play in education and a consistent message is needed a bit like dog fouling to make this unacceptable and to get past the disconnect that the canine predator cannot be the pet dog. The Dogs Protection Act needs more powers. There may be a feasible way of saying if a dog is in a field without a lead around livestock that is punishable because then that is a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach.
What can dog owners do to prevent livestock worrying and how can we encourage better dog management?
AHWBE/Battersea Dogs & Cats Home- Claire Horton
In all of the roles of being non-executive director of the AHWBE and CEO of BDCH, it is to raise awareness whilst educating and driving change. There are dogs that get loose and have got out through irresponsible ownership and a failure to keep the dog safely in. Then there are genuine accidents when people are out and do not think about what the dog will do around livestock. Dogs Trust has a dog law fact sheet, KC has Good Citizen Dog Scheme, RSPCA works with the Farmer Guardian on ‘Take the Lead’. The dog groups all produce fact sheets and advice on how to keep your dog safe and under control but of course a lot of owners will not think it applies to them. Many of the leaflets point out the consequence of failing to keep your dog under control but most people do not believe that would happen and they do not understand the severity of the injuries caused to livestock. There are serious potential consequences and that can be loss of the right to use the space especially in the more urban areas so there is a need to educate dog owners on this as well. Farmers could assist by signposting different routing of paths, changing where feeders are and being very clear with people that livestock are in fields. Between the wide reach around the table awareness can be raised and the issue tackled.
Canine & Feline Sector Group – Professor Steve Dean
There is an enormous amount of common ground with the Dangerous Dogs in urban areas if we substitute the sheep with a child or cat. It is currently anecdotal evidence and gathering data is essential not only in getting action legally but because it allows you to target the audience to which you need to speak. Many times at various events you are speaking to the converted where as you need to get to the person who is totally disengaged. Dogs need to run free everyday for good exercise but here we are saying dogs should be on the lead. The lead is similar to the car safety belt in that you should not need it, you hope you don’t have an accident and likewise the lead is there to aid you. I hate seeing owners with dogs straining on leads as the dog should be under control even on the lead. You can have a dog out of control on a lead too. Education and training is t part of the process. The CFSG has a great number of resources to help directly towards good dog training. A large percentage of dog are never trained apart from routinely. Training dogs around livestock is an extension to training them to be social with other pets and human beings and there is a real need to encourage people to take up training. This is a dog issue not a breed issue. It is important to deal with specifics and resist generalisations. It is most important to gather the data to target activities for which there needs to be co-operation between police, farmers and dog owners and CFSG with its contacts stands ready to help.
Kennel Club Access Advisor – Stephen Jenkinson
To find solutions it is vital to respond to causes of problems not symptoms. Emerging data from Scotland and Wales shows that the majority of incidents is caused by unaccompanied dogs escaping from homes yet messaging is formed around dogs on leads or off leads. Most dog walkers do not set out to kill, injure or stress livestock and there are 1.5 billion dog walks a year according to Natural England. Owners want happy hassle free walks and will chose to avoid conflict. Dogs on leads will not work and will simply displace the activities. The Welsh Assembly said owning dogs was one of the top two activities for people reducing burdens on the NHS amongst other things and should be encouraged. Credible, consistent and accurate information will help walkers avoid livestock and it does work. Hampshire County Council give clear guidance on where to go to avoid livestock on walks and where a lead will be needed and it worked. Brighton and Hove Council have a website showing where sheep are grazed and where they are not to avoid conflict. Conflict is being made worse by councils increasingly banning dogs from parks and green space around towns so that is where the problem is growing. Dog walkers do want to do the right thing. Hampshire have also created a safe area where people can train dogs off-lead and it provides a safe environment. Good management that respects and addresses the equally legitimate concerns of farmers and dog walkers can work.
- Discussion & Conclusions (35 mins)
Tim Morris – There is a lot of consensus. Terena Plowright of Sheepwatch UK is trying to start the collection of statistics starting with social media. Additionally, as a starter Tom Carterof Sussex Police has produced a leaflet with police forces logo, farmer organisations logo and that sets out what farmers should expect from dog walkers, how to report things including anti-social behaviour and intelligence and what to expect from police. IA key role of the leaflet is positive expectation management. The leaflet is complemented by the with the sheepwatch.co.uk website that has just been launched. All this will also help new staff who have just started in the police control room so they will know exactly what to say, and the police will know how to react.
Baroness Masham –North Yorkshire police has a reputation for catching people in speeding but when my sheep were worried 4 sheep died, the vets were involved, but all I got from the police was a crime number. How can the police can more involved in all areas?
Alex Butterfield – We have invested a lot into supporting rural crime with the largest rural task force with 17 dedicated officers but that is North Yorkshire and there is work to do to get through to the farming community and develop a better relationship. Not every force has the resources for rural issues.
Neil Parish MP – Most worrying takes place at night. My father and I were amazed how many dogs are wondering around in the dark and if you get a number together they start playing with the sheep and then it starts to escalate. We have to get examples of people who leave their dogs out at night, most dog should be chipped and identifiable now which will help.
Bill Wiggin MP –. Dogs carry a disease which kills cattle so this is a bigger problem than just sheep worrying. We need to change the law on moving footpaths, it is nearly impossible to move footpaths and we need to change this.
Lord Trees – It has been very informative. The key is raising awareness and we need to get coverage on Countryfile and The Archers. Reporting is a key priority and perhaps academic groups could host a central reporting facility making it simple and online with guidelines. It sounds like loose dogs are the biggest problem and that is mainly in urbanising areas too.
Anne McBride –Basic principle of human behaviour change is telling them why otherwise you won’t get compliance. The messaging needs to be broader than keep your dog on a lead. Why and the how. The Good Citizens standards could be widened to include more on basic lifeskills and one being on off-led recall in a distracting situation.
Lord de Mauley –An enormous amount of good sense has bene spoken today. It takes a long time to get legislation through as there is competitive for the legislative programme and it needs strong evidence – legislate in haste repent at leisure. The need for evidence is crucial and the need to equip famers and dog owners to know what to do to tackle it is also important. Dog owners are deluged with information and we need to get it across in the right crisp way so there is a need to collate that from this meeting. The easiest way once we have the evidence is probably a Private Members Bill and that would need Government support.
Tim Morris – Defra said the same regarding the Private Members Bill route and it is on the agenda but gathering the evidence is needed first as part of the work.
Rebecca Pow MP –I think there is merit in the idea of diverting footpaths temporarily but it would need to be looked at carefully Lots of walkers and dog walkers are nervous about going into fields and would like more information so I think they would receptive to warnings telling them to take other routes. I was in a debate about dog poo and an idea which came out of that was engaging wider industries like petfood companies to help educate.
David Hanson MP –Farmers should be encouraged to tell their Member of Parliament when an incident occurs to raise the issue as nothing fills a minister’s mind more than 5 letter with a common theme on a particular issue.
Caroline Spence – There is a need to get social science involved as there is a dearth of scientific input. We need to develop messages to people who are resistant to putting their dog on a lead and simply telling then to put them on a lead will not be enough.
Rob Taylor – We have looked at existing legislation to see where we can make it work better. The Countryside Rights of Way Act sits with the local authority not police. We want better powers to seize dogs which have been involved in livestock worrying.
Terena Plowright – This is where we need the evidence base to be right as so far from the evidence 90% of dogs are not being walked through a field with a footpath.
Angela Smith MP – There is broad consensus in the room with three main areas – farmers being encouraged to report incidents, awareness raising before walking and education of dog walkers and then consideration of a Private Members Bill once evidence has been collected. We need to look at these areas of agreement, work together to take them forward and meet again later this year to see how it has moved forward once all the statistics have been collected.