Rural crime has become a major problem for farming and rural communities across Wales as reports of livestock worrying, livestock thefts and agricultural machinery thefts have been increasingly reported.
The most pertinent of these to the Welsh agricultural industry is livestock worrying, and dog attacks on livestock. In efforts to tackle livestock attacks and raise awareness of the problems associated with such incidents, the FUW launched its ‘Your Dog Your Responsibility” campaign in 2019 which included farm-gate warning signs to provide farmers with a practical way to remind those walking dogs near livestock of their responsibilities and the potential dangers.
Given the significant rise in the number of Welsh residents using public right of ways during the pandemic and consequently the increase of dogs being walked near livestock, the FUW held an online webinar entitled ‘Livestock Worrying - do you know your rights?’ with speakers from the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team and Dyfed-Powys Police to provide an insight into the current laws surrounding dog attacks on livestock.
According to the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team, there were 449 livestock worrying incidents from between 2013 and 2017 whereby 648 head of livestock were killed and 376 injured, although 89 percent of these attacks were by dogs that had escaped their home.
However as the Home Office does not require police forces to record livestock attacks, the true scale of the impacts on the economy, food supply, communities and farm businesses is unknown.
The current Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act was introduced in 1953 when both farming and policies were different and therefore no longer serves its purpose in providing adequate policing powers against livestock attacks.
As part of the Livestock Worrying Police Working Group report in 2018, the National Police Chiefs Council called to:
- Move away from listed animals in order to focus on a collective response to include alpacas and llamas
- Expand the definition of agricultural land so that livestock attacks on non-agricultural land can be dealt with
- Define what ‘under close control of a dog’ means to avoid confusion
- Provide power for the police to search for and seize dogs
- Have the ability to obtain DNA samples from suspect dogs
- A formal requirement for all police forces to record livestock attack incidents under the Home Office in order to obtain a clear image of these issues
- Have the ability to issue compensation and fines through the Crown Court for such offenses
Despite the fact that the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) 1953 Act is an England and Wales piece of legislation, the FUW feels strongly that the next Welsh Government should do all it can to support the National Police Chiefs Council in order to provide police forces across Wales and England with the adequate powers to prosecute offenders of livestock attacks.
Furthermore, the FUW is clear that the Welsh Government must abide by its announcement to establish an all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator role to enable all forms of rural and wildlife crime to be tackled across Wales’ police forces.