New powers to deal with livestock worrying ‘not enough’ says West Sussex farmer

New powers to tackle livestock worrying ‘are something, but not enough’, a West Sussex farmer said this week.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 11:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 12:00 pm

The changes, which were introduced in the Kept Animals Bill earlier this month, give more power to the police to tackle livestock worrying incidents and expand the scope of what is afforded protection.

But Caroline Harriott, who farms in Findon and Sompting and lives in Arundel, said there are still too many people who do not realise the consequences of taking a dog off its lead near livestock.

“These new powers are something, but not enough,” she said.

Caroline Harriott pictured at Lychpole Farm in Sompting with her dog, Meg

“We are seeing commercial dog walkers walking rescue dogs with no proper training. These rescue dogs have had a bad experience in their life and some are also hunting dogs, so they’ve got it in them to chase.

“It is not the dog’s fault – the owner has chosen the wrong breed.”

The former West Sussex chairman of the National Farmers Union (NFU) who has actively petitioned MP Tim Loughton for a change in the law said there should be a minimum number of dogs paid walkers should be allowed to take – and they should be banned should an attack on livestock happen.

“No other industry would put up with people walking through their business and affecting it,” she added.

“I know there is a slightly higher penalty for dog walkers now but the penalty for the devastation is nowhere near enough.

“And it is so preventable. It’s like wearing a seatbelt, which stops loads of accidents from happening – we will save lots of sheep if people put their dogs on a lead – it is as simple as that.”

The NFU said it was pleased to see the government taking ‘clear action to strengthen the law as dog ownership increases’.

However, it said it would like to see the government go further and implement increased fines.

“This can act as an appropriate deterrent and would also reflect the financial loss to the farm business as a result of an attack,” said Stuart Roberts, deputy president.

“We would also like to see a clear rule that dogs should always be on a lead around livestock.

“We believe the current wording that a dog has to be under ‘close control’ around livestock causes confusion for dog owners, farmers and the police.”

Mr Roberts said the Bill also bans the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter, which, he said, raises questions about how the government will ensure trade deals also meet these standards.

“It’s clear that the government has ambitions to be a global leader in animal welfare, an objective we support, but I would urge them to carefully consider how requirements set at home will be balanced when striking new trade deals.

“While the ban on live exports was expected, it is concerning that the government is pursuing trade negotiations with countries that export large numbers of animals for fattening and slaughter.

“It’s imperative that if we set certain standards for British farmers, we ensure we do not undercut them in trade deals by imports that do not meet those same expectations.

“If we are to be a global leader in this area, we must hold our trading partners to the same standard and not simply offshore our consciences.”

The new powers were welcomed by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who said: “Following a spate of incidents where dogs have attacked or distressed sheep, I’m sure that rural communities in Sussex will welcome these new measures.

“Our Rural Crime Team will be able to seize and remove dogs who pose a risk to livestock or have already been involved in serious incidents.

“Officers will also have enhanced powers of entry to premises to collect the evidence that is needed to bring successful prosecutions for livestock worrying.

“I am looking forward to the positive impact of more animal welfare plans being laid before Parliament in the coming months, and to seeing what recommendations for policing emerge from the Government’s Pet Theft Task Force.”