New laws to control dog attacks - Private Members Bill is pledged to short cut process

A major new campaign to put an end to dog attacks across Wales has won the support of Ceredigion MP Ben Lake. The Farmers Union of Wales has linked up with other organisations to remind dog owners, “Your dog, your responsibility” and is calling for legislative changes that reflect the seriousness of the offense.  

And now Mr Lake has pledged to put forward a Private Members Bill in the Commons to bring forward new legislation which will criminalise dog owners whose animals attack livestock and will provide a mechanism for compensation for farmers.

Key to the latest moves are figures from North Wales Police, the only force to maintain records and statistics, which show that 89 per cent of all dog attacks on livestock happen when they stray from home.

“We are very grateful to North Wales Police for recording this data.  Previous campaigns have focused on dog walkers, but as figures show, the main issue appears to be those that escape from the back garden,” said FUW senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright. “As the law stands at the moment there is very little that can be to recompense the farmer or to minimise the chance of re-offending.”

The Union believes that the only way to tackle increasing attacks is by introducing new laws which will act a powerful deterrent. There were 449 cases of livestock attacks between 2103-2017 in North Wales alone, but there continues to be under reporting by farmers due to a lack of confidence in the legal system. Around 15,000 sheep were killed by dogs in 2016.  At £75 per carcase, a loss of £1.3 million pounds. Other losses include abortions, loss of breeding stock and the cost of veterinary bills.

Currently there are 4 main pieces of law covering livestock attacks but all are antiquated and do not fit with current agricultural practices or the seriousness of the offense.

“This is a major issue for the livestock farmers of Wales, impacting on incomes and in some cases causing severe mental health issues for those involved,” said Mr Lake. “I will be putting forward a Private Members Bill when Parliament is back in session in an attempt to fast track much needed powers aimed at reducing the incidence of this serious threat to life and rural livelihoods.”

“It appears that education alone cannot solve this complex issue,” said Dr Wright.  “The lack of substantive legal action means that there is no real deterrent for offenders and the FUW will not stop until changes in the legislation ensure that Welsh and English police have the powers to properly deal with offenders.

The FUW wants:

  • Mandatory recording of dog attacks on livestock by all Welsh police forces.
  • Changes to the current limited and outdated fines - currently a maximum non imprisonable offense with a maximum fine of up to £1000.  
  • Fines levied on offenders should be proportionate and should allow for full compensation
  • Police forces granted the power to obtain DNA samples from suspect dogs
  • Powers to confiscate dogs..
  • Legal responsibility for dog owner to report attack to prevent badly injured sheep being left to suffer
  •  Failure to report an attack should be an offence
  •  Power to ban an owner from owning another dog.  
  • Powers of dog destruction after conviction with the 1953 act.  

Other proposals include:

  • A change to the definition of ‘arable land’ as attacks are only enforceable on arable land and if a farmer is moving sheep between fields on a public highway legislation isn’t valid.
  • A wider definition of ‘livestock’ is also needed as certain animals, such as deer, llamas and alpacas, are not covered by the 1953 act.
  • There also needs to be a proper definition of ‘under close control’ as it applies to dogs being walked near livestock.  
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Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru and Farmers’ Union of Wales are the trading names of FUW Ltd, which is registered in Wales no. 10935716