Carloonan summit gathers sheep worrying agencies

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Inveraray farmer Brian Walker suffered a dog attack on a field of breeding ewe hoggs back in March that left 11 animals dead.

On Friday December 7, he hosted a meeting of agencies involved with the issue of livestock worrying by dogs at Carloonan and he is hopeful there is now an opportunity to tackle the problem.

South of Scotland MSP Emma Harper is looking to bring forward a Private Members Bill to the Scottish Parliament on the issue and she travelled to the farm to hear the views of everyone present.

Speaking after the meeting, farmer’s daughter Emma Harper said: ‘This livestock worrying for me is about livestock attack.’

A former trauma nurse, she has treated people with horrific facial and other injuries and she sees a parallel with the results of a dog attack.

She added: ‘The mutilation I have witnessed from seeing pictures and talking to farmers is an issue that absolutely must be taken seriously.

‘I think that everyone has an idea of the way we can make the legislation better so that we can allow the Crown officers to be able to pursue an approach that may be a bit more tailor-made so they have more tools in their box.

‘The legislation from 1953 is well out of date. I think we need the ability to fine someone a lot more than just £50 for causing damage to property, which is a sheep.’

A 12-week consultation on the proposed Bill will go out electronically in early January 2019.

Ms Harper explained: ‘We can then start the process of developing a Bill at stage one which will be discussed in the Scottish Parliament before stage two in front of the rural committee, and then stage three, so hopefully we’ll be able to get this process moved forward before the end of the parliamentary session.’

Brian Walker said: ‘I think an awful lot of positives should have come out from this meeting. There was someone here from pretty much every organisation that is involved with livestock worrying.

‘The way things are nowadays the term ‘worrying’ doesn’t make people sit up and think.

‘The word ‘attack’ will hopefully become part of the legislation. It’s the shock and horror of dealing with the animals left alive, we need to get that across. It’s very traumatic.’

Then there is the financial cost. The sheep killed in the March attack were breeding ewe hoggs.

‘Brian Walker continued: ‘They were going to be on the farm for the next five or six years and during that time they would have produced offspring for me to sell which is what creates our income.’

He stressed that 99.9 per cent of dog walkers are fine, adding: ‘Most of my land is round about the town of Inveraray and I meet a lot of dog walkers. I know a lot of them and there’s no problem.

‘It’s a minority of people who allow their dogs to run out of control who cause problems. But it’s becoming a bigger minority as more and more people get pet dogs.

‘It’s a problem that’s escalating and, one way or another, there have to be proper controls put in place.’