Sheep: Dogs

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 29th June 2022.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of (a) allowing farmers to shoot dogs that attack sheep and (b) allowing dog owners to train dogs not to attack sheep using electronic collars.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government takes the issue of livestock worrying very seriously, recognising the distress this can cause farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications, which can be very significant.

New measures to crack down on livestock worrying in England and Wales are to be brought in through the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on 8 June 2021.

The new measures will enhance enforcement mechanisms available to the police and expand the scope of livestock species and locations covered by the law. Improved powers will enable the police to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively – making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further incidents.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill does not include a provision to allow a farmer to shoot a dog which is worrying livestock on their land. However the Animals Act 1971 provides that in civil proceedings against a person for killing or injuring a dog, it is a defence in certain circumstances where a dog is killed or injured by someone protecting livestock.

The proposed ban on the use of electric shock collars controlled by hand-held devices was developed after considering a broad range of factors, including the effects of such a ban. When considered alongside the academic research, the public consultation responses, and direct engagement with the sector, the Government concluded that these devices present a risk to the welfare of dogs and cats and that their use should be prohibited.

We appreciate that the right approach for pet owners to take in managing and controlling their dog’s behaviour differs from both person to person and from pet to pet. Defra would advise all owners who are concerned about controlling their dog’s behaviour, for whatever reason, to take advice from their vet or a suitably qualified dog behaviourist or trainer. Such specialists would be best positioned to advise on the best approach for their specific case. The Animal Behaviour and Training Council maintains national registers of appropriately qualified trainers and behaviourists which can be found at the link below: https://abtc.org.uk/practitioners/.

Defra’s statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs and Natural England’s refreshed version of the Countryside Code apply to handling dogs in the vicinity of livestock and outline the actions that can be taken by dog owners to reduce the occurrence of attacks or chasing.

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