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NFU Mutual statistics have revealed that farm animals worth £113,000 were attacked by dogs in Scotland last year – down 30 per cent on 2018.
According to the insurer’s statistics, farm animals worth £1.2m were savaged by dogs in the UK last year. Despite welcome falls in the figures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where co-ordinated campaigns have helped change attitudes among dog owners, England saw a rise in cost of 15 per cent.
A survey of over 1,300 dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual reveals that more owners now put their dog on a lead if they see a sign warning them livestock are nearby (95 per cent compared to 90 per cent in 2018).
However, 63 per cent of dog owners let their pets roam free in the countryside despite half admitting their dog does not always come back when called.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: ‘As the main insurer of Scotland’s farmers we’re encouraged that dog attacks on farm animals in Scotland are starting to fall – but more needs to be done to put an end to livestock worrying.
‘A significant number of dog owners still don’t realise that their much-loved pet is capable of attacking and killing large numbers of sheep. Even if a dog doesn’t make contact, the distress and exhaustion of the chase can cause sheep to die or miscarry their lambs.
‘We’re also alarmed that more than half of owners are leaving their dogs unsupervised outside their homes when they are out – particularly when one in six admits their dog has already escaped.’
One of the trends most concerning farmers is a steady increase in dogs allowed outside unaccompanied when their owners are out (56 per cent in 2020, rising from 43 per cent in 2018).
Police are increasingly finding that unsupervised dogs are escaping from owners’ gardens and roaming fields, attacking livestock. This concern is supported by one in six of survey respondents admitting their dog had escaped from home in the past.
‘Whether owners don’t know or don’t care about the carnage their pets are causing, these people are giving a bad name to the responsible majority who do keep their pets under control,’ said Rebecca.
NFU Mutual and NFU Scotland are two of the rural organisations taking part in a campaign with Police Scotland’s Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) initiative to highlight the reality of livestock attacks.
The aim of the campaign – ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’ is to ensure dog owners understand the distressing nature as well as emotional and financial impacts such incidents can have, not just on farmers but everyone having to deal with the aftermath.
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “These figures are extremely encouraging and will be in no small part down to the SPARC initiative, and all the partners that have bought into it.
“Controlling dogs on farmland was a key campaign for both SPARC and NFU Scotland last year and despite this initial success dog worrying is still a big issue for our members. We are keen to keep going with this initiative and build on these positive results.’
He added: ‘The Scottish Government intends to look more closely at relevant dog legislation in 2020, this is something that we will strongly engage with.’