Scotland business

NFU Scotland says livestock-worrying at seven-year high

Dog on lead in front of sheep Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption NFU Scotland has urged the public to keep dogs on leads when in the countryside, as the spring lambing period approaches

Livestock-worrying in Scotland has hit a seven-year high following a sharp rise in the number of reported cases, according to a farming lobby group.

NFU Scotland said there were 179 cases of worrying, where animals were injured or killed, in 2016.

There were 46 fewer incidents in the previous year.

It has urged the public to keep dogs on leads when in the countryside, as farmers and crofters enter a busy time of year for lambing and calving,

NFU Scotland obtained the latest figures from Police Scotland following a Freedom of Information request.

The Highlands and Islands and Lothians and Borders areas saw the highest number of livestock-worrying incidents - 36 and 27 respectively - with Aberdeenshire and Moray in third with 22.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption NFU Scotland wants dog walkers to avoid fields where very young livestock or heavily-pregnant ewes are present

NFU Scotland vice president Gary Mitchell said: "The worrying of livestock can have devastating consequences for a farmer and, their stock and as these statistics suggest, it is becoming an increasing problem for Scotland's farmers and crofters.

"Sheep are particularly at risk during the spring lambing period and we need dog owners to take action to prevent livestock-worrying.

"Otherwise, if their dog is found worrying livestock they could face prosecution, as we have seen with some cases that have gone to court recently.

"The farmer is also within their legal right to shoot a dog if it is found to be worrying livestock - not a decision that is taken lightly."

He added: "We are appealing to dog walkers to avoid fields where very young livestock, or heavily-pregnant ewes are present, and if there is no alternative route, owners should keep their dogs on a lead and under close control or at heel.

"We also ask farmers and crofters to report instances to Police Scotland after they have occurred, taking photographic evidence where possible."

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