Holyrood Committee seeks views on tougher penalties for ‘livestock worrying’


A draft law which would increase the penalties for dog-owners whose pets chase, attack or kill farmed animals is to be considered by a Holyrood Committee.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has issued a call for views on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which aims to “strengthen and update the law” in relation to so-called “livestock worrying”. 

The Member’s Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Emma Harper MSP would provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence and increase the maximum penalty to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, or both. 

It would also allow a court to make an order disqualifying convicted persons, for such period as the court sees fit, from owning or keeping a dog, or preventing them for taking dogs onto agricultural land on which livestock is present. 

The Bill provides police and inspectors with new powers to seize a dog for the purpose of identifying its owner or gathering evidence, and further extends the definition of “livestock” to reflect a more up-to-date list of the species now farmed in Scotland, such as llamas, alpacas, ostriches, farmed deer, buffalo, and enclosed game birds. 

Committee Convener, Edward Mountain MSP, said: 

“Dog attacks cause suffering to farm animals, resulting in distress and significant financial cost to farmers. 

“Emma Harper believes the current law in relation to livestock worrying is out of date and that tougher enforcement powers and penalties are needed to act as a deterrent. 

“The purpose of the committee’s call for evidence is to understand the need for further legislation in this area and to seek views on whether the additional powers and increased punishments proposed are sufficient and proportionate.” 

Please send your views to [email protected] by Friday 28 August 2020. 


The call for evidence can be accessed here

The Member’s Bill was introduced by Emma Harper MSP on 14 May 2020. It updates the existing law on “livestock worrying”, in the main, by amending the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. 

The Bill:

  • increases the maximum penalty to a fine of £5,000 or imprisonment for six months
  • allows the courts to ban a convicted person from owning a dog or allowing their dog to go on agricultural land
  • gives the police greater powers to investigate and enforce livestock worrying offence, including going onto land to identify a dog, seize it and collect evidence from it
  • allows other organisations to be given similar powers
  • extends the “livestock worrying” offence to cover additional types of farmed animal
  • renames the offence as that of “attacking or worrying livestock”, with the intention of emphasising how serious it can be.

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