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Change in law needed to help farmers protect livestock from attacks by dogs

NEIL Hamilton, AM for Mid and West Wales and Leader of UKIP Wales, is backing a move to fast track legislation to stop dogs attacking livestock in Wales.

Mr Hamilton, Party Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, is supporting the Farmers Union of Wales, who have linked up with other organisations to launch a major campaign, ‘Your dog, your responsibility’, for a change in the law. He said: “I fully support any moves to speed up legislation. Recent figures from North Wales Police show that most attacks are happening when a dog strays from its back garden and this is extremely worrying. Under the current law, if the owner is known, police cannot seize the animal even if the dog may be responsible for other attacks. There is also no requirement for the owner to report the attack and it is not a recordable offence. Police need to be given more powers to deal with offenders and farmers should have more protection as the financial and emotional impact of livestock worrying is something they can clearly do without.

“Dog owners need to take responsibility and make sure their pets are kept on leads near livestock. Some may think they can guarantee their pet will not harass the animals but better be safe than sorry. I am also pleased to see Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake, taking up the fight and hope his pledge to introduce a Private Members Bill to bring forward new legislation is successful.

“Dog owners, whose animals attack livestock, should be made accountable and realise the seriousness of the offence. Farmers should also be compensated for the distress and injuries to their sheep.”

The latest call comes after North Wales Police, the only force to maintain records and statistics, released figures which showed that 89% of all dog attacks on livestock happen when they stray from home.

FUW senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright said previous campaigns had focused on dog walkers, but as figures show, the main issue appears to be those that escape from the back garden, The FUW believes that the only way to tackle increasing attacks is by introducing new laws which will act a powerful deterrent. There were 449 cases of livestock attacks between 2103-2017 in North Wales alone, but there continues to be under reporting by farmers due to a lack of confidence in the legal system. Around 15,000 sheep were killed by dogs in 2016. At £75 per carcass, a loss of £1.3 million pounds. Other losses include abortions, loss of breeding stock and the cost of veterinary bills.

Currently there are four main pieces of law covering livestock attacks but all are antiquated and do not fit with current agricultural practices or the seriousness of the offence. The FUW is now calling for measures to be taken to reduce the number of attacks on livestock in Wales. They include: Mandatory recording of dog attacks on livestock by all Welsh police forces; Changes to the current limited and outdated fines; Fines levied on offenders should be proportionate and should allow for full compensation; Failure to report an attack should be an offence and legal responsibility for dog owner to report attack to prevent badly injured sheep being left to suffer.

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