Dog owners who let their animals loose in the countryside have been responsible for the deaths and injury of hundreds of Scottish livestock in recent times. Over the last five years, there have been more than 550 incidents of worrying in Scotland, and NFU Scotland took to the Royal Highland Show to raise further awareness of the problem.
Figures obtained from Police Scotland under a Freedom of Information request show that over the last few years, on average, there have been around 100 cases of livestock worrying in Scotland annually, where the incidents have been reported to police.
In total there have been 566 cases over the last five years.
The breakdown revealed that in 2010 there were 109 cases; 2011, 132; 2012, 132; 2013, 100 and in 2014 there were 93 cases recorded.
Over the period there were 62 cases in the Lothians and Borders and last year there were 15 reported cases with only the Highlands having a higher number.
Between January 1 and May 21 this year there have already been five animals killed in the area and a further three injured.
Gemma Thomson, legal and technical policy manager for NFUS said: “With increasing access to the countryside, NFU Scotland members report that instances of livestock worrying are occurring far too frequently.
“There have been 566 reported cases in Scotland from 2010 to 2014, but a lot of instances are not reported, so the real number is likely to be far higher.
“Each instance leads to immediate financial loss, additional ongoing financial harm, and emotional stress at the death and suffering caused to their livestock.
“In some instances the same dogs are allowed to worry livestock on a number of occasions.
“Farmers have little recourse against perpetrators.
“This is one of the worst forms of irresponsible access. We are also working with Keep Scotland Beautiful to address the issue of dog fouling on agricultural land.
“Access to the countryside is only exercisable if it is responsible, and livestock worrying is a wholly unacceptable part of that right to access. It is a serious issue, a growing one, and one which can have consequences for the dog and/or owner as well as the farmer affected by it.
“We need to push for dog owners who are not exercising responsible access to change their habits.
“Better safe than sorry and we would urge dog owners to keep their animals on leads when out in the countryside, that you keep your dog out of fields with livestock, and even if you can’t see livestock in a field, exercise caution as they may be out of sight.”