To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the case for requiring dogs to be on leads when near livestock on working farms.
26 April 2021
My department takes the issue of livestock worrying very seriously, recognising the distress this can cause farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications.
All reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 (the 1953 Act) provides a specific offence of allowing a dog to worry livestock on any agricultural land with a maximum fine of £1,000.
For the purposes of the 1953 Act, a dog can be said to be worrying livestock if it attacks or chases livestock, or if it is at large (that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. In this Act, the definition of “livestock” covers sheep, goats, swine, horses, asses, mules, poultry (including domestic fowls, turkeys, geese or ducks), and cattle (including bulls, cows, oxen, heifers or calves).
In addition to the 1953 Act, the police can and do take action under the Dogs Act 1871 where there are dogs that are out of control and dangerous to other animals. Section 2 of the 1871 Act allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrate’s court by any individual, the police or local authorities, where a dog is “dangerous and not kept under proper control”. The court may make any Order it considers appropriate to require the owner to keep the dog under proper control, or if necessary, that it be destroyed. The court may specify measures to be taken for keeping the dog under proper control, such as muzzling and remaining on a lead when in public.
Guidance is available to educate owners about handling their dogs responsibly in the vicinity of livestock, in order to prevent the occurrence of attacks or chasing.
The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs clearly sets out that all dogs need to be trained to behave well, ideally from a very young age and should be introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals. The Code asks owners to ensure that they prevent their dogs from chasing or attacking any other animals, including livestock and horses; for example, through use of a lead or avoidance of such situations.
Natural England has recently published a refreshed version of the Countryside Code: advice for countryside visitors, which is available online at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code-advice-for-countryside-visitors. A copy is also attached to this answer. Both the short and long versions of the Countryside Code make specific reference to keeping dogs under control and in sight to make sure they stay away from wildlife, livestock, horses and other people unless invited. The Code helpfully sets out certain legal requirements, encouraging visitors to always check local signs as there are situations when you must keep your dog on a lead for all or part of the year. An associated campaign will run throughout 2021, which will include a broader conversation with stakeholders about what a ‘post Covid’ Code for the 21st century would look like and how to promote more awareness and positive behaviour.
In light of the relevant legislation and statutory guidance available, the Government does not consider it necessary to introduce any additional requirement for dogs to be on a lead when near livestock.