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Report calls for changes to Scotland’s livestock worrying legislation

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is calling for changes to legislation including a higher level of fines to be imposed for dog-related offences and for guidance around livestock worrying to be reviewed.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and Scottish Outdoor Access Code outline the responsibilities of users and managers of the land, while a separate Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act tackles the issue of out-of-control dogs attacking and worrying livestock.

A report by SRUC, which was produced following a workshop with countryside rangers, dog training specialists, and farmers among others, recommends reviewing the wording of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to reduce ambiguity and improve clarity. This includes removing the option of keeping a dog under ‘close control’ and using only the term ‘keeping it on a short lead’.

The report suggests creating an easy-to-read version of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code with less text and more images to increase engagement and comprehension, as well as materials for use in puppy training classes.

In addition, the report highlights the need to discourage the use of the phrase ‘right to roam’ and instead promote the term ‘responsible access’, and calls for more resources to implement, monitor, and police the guidelines.

The report also suggests exploring the reintroduction of dog licensing with separate licenses for working dogs and pets, increasing the level of fines or imposing anti-social behaviour orders and community service sentences for dog-related offences, and aligning the guidance for access to farmland more closely with that for land with crops and golf courses.

Co-author Dr Kate Lamont, a Behavioural Scientist at SRUC, said: “The term livestock worrying is often more than a sheep or cow feeling anxious about a dog – it can be bloody and brutal, with biting, chasing to the point of exhaustion, miscarriage and killing commonly reported.

“Many dog owners are caught out unawares, are apologetic and upset by their dog’s behaviour, and will take steps to avoid repetition. However, others angrily defend what they describe as their right to roam – not realising that their right is for responsible access.”

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