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A new campaign to educate dog owners kicked off just as news broke of yet another sheep attack in Argyll.
As lambing season approaches, Mid Argyll police officers have begun an Argyll-wide effort to inform dog walkers about keeping their pets under close control around livestock.
But while posters were being printed and handouts prepared, news came that a blackface ewe in Lochgoilhead suffered serious facial and neck injuries in a dog attack and had to be put down due to the nature of her injuries.
Police tracked down the owner, who was charged in relation to contravention of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and reported to the procurator fiscal.
The owner and dog will also be subject of a Dog Control Notice issued in conjunction with Argyll and Bute Council.
Co-ordinating the campaign is Lochgilphead-based PC Ben Rusden, who said: ‘Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control at all times and dogs should be kept on a close lead when anywhere near livestock.
‘It is a criminal offence for dogs to be allowed to attack or chase livestock. It is also an offence for dogs to be at large – ie not on a lead or otherwise under close control – in a field in which there are sheep. Dog owners can be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.
‘Dog owners can also be held financially liable for damages done by a dog. Please enjoy the beautiful countryside of Argyll and Bute responsibly’
For livestock managers, weatherproof signs advising dog walkers of their responsibilities are available to erect on farmland. These can be obtained from PC Rusden in Lochgilphead via 101 or email him at Benjamin.Rusden@scotland.pnn.police.uk
One man who knows all about the damage dogs can do is Inveraray farmer Brian Walker. He lost 11 sheep in the spring of last year following a dog attack, and has experienced similar attacks in previous years.
Mr Walker said: ‘This is about raising awareness about dog attacks, but the one key thing I would like to do is encourage farmers to start reporting these crimes. We can only get the law on dog attacks changed if the evidence is there.’
MSP Emma Harper is currently pursuing a Private Members Bill through the Scottish Parliament to have legislation brought up to date and bring sanctions more in line with the seriousness of the crime.