Dog owners could be fined up to £1,000 for walking their dogs off lead in a farmer’s field.
This is because it is against the law for dogs to “worry” livestock – such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and domestic poultry – in the UK.
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act of 1953 was devised to protect livestock from dog, with the Blue Cross stating owners must prevent dogs from attacking or chasing livestock, or being out-of-control off lead in a field containing sheep.
“Even if your dog does not bite livestock, chasing or barking at them can cause pregnant animals to lose their young through stress,” the animal charity warned.
With a new animal welfare bill (the Kept Animals bill) being proposed by the Government, these laws protecting livestock from dogs may be cracked down on even further.
Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, said: “Growing up on a farm, and having suffered from a dog attack at home, I know first-hand the devastating effect of livestock worrying and the distress that it causes farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications.
“We are cracking down on this issue by introducing new laws to tackle this offence and giving police more powers to act on reports of livestock worrying.”
What can happen if I break this law?
The maximum fine for a dog owner is up to £1,000.
More worryingly, however, in some situations, a farmer may shoot a dog they believe may injure or kill their livestock. Farmers are not legally entitled to just shoot any dog that trespasses on their property, but as a last resort, if your dog is seriously chasing after their livestock, shooting the dog could be legally permissible.
It’s best to keep your dog far away from sheep, cows, pigs or other farm animals if they are likely to chase them.
So how should I behave around livestock?
You legally must have your dog on a lead no more than two metres long on Open Access land even if there are no livestock around between 1 March and 31 July, and at other times it is recommended you keep your dog on a lead around any livestock.
It’s best to be safe and keep your dog on a lead at all times where there may be livestock grazing, especially if they are with their young, as this may lead to livestock becoming extra protective and potentially aggressive.
If your dog is particularly skittish around sheep, or loves to chase other animals, keep them well away from livestock and make sure they are securely on their lead.
The Countryside Code states: “If you feel threatened or are chased by livestock, then let go of the lead for your own safety. It’s usually the dog they see as a threat rather than you, and most dogs can easily outrun a cow.”