Farmers in Wales have heard how a change in the law is needed to effectively tackle the growing problem of livestock worrying by dogs.

Speaking at a livestock worrying information webinar, North Wales Police rural crime team manager Rob Taylor explained that The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 is weak and no longer serves its purpose.

“The act dates from the early 1950s when both farming and policing were practised differently," Mr Taylor, who is also chair of the National Police Chiefs Council livestock offences group, told the webinar hosted by the Farmers’ Union of Wales and Wales YFC.

"We can all agree that both occupations have evolved since then and the act does not reflect modern practices. For example in 2021, the act doesn’t allow the police to obtain DNA, it doesn’t allow us to prosecute people whose dogs have attacked alpacas and llamas; it doesn’t allow us to prosecute if the attack happened on land that’s not agricultural land; we don’t have an option of banning orders.

"If a dog is subject of a control or destruction order at court, the 1953 act does not have any powers written into it for the court to refer to and use. The court also has to borrow laws from an old Victorian civil act namely the Dogs Act 1871, and this can cause confusion for both police and court alike.”

In his presentation PC Dave Allen highlighted some harrowing statistics:

  • 449 recorded cases of livestock worrying from September 1, 2013, to August 31, 2017;
  • Recorded number of livestock killed in data period 648, livestock injured 376;
  • 52 recorded incidents which resulted in the offending dog being shot;
  • In 89 per cent of recorded cases of livestock worrying, the dog owner was not present and 5 per cent of recorded cases were committed by repeat offending owners/walkers.

“There are three types of livestock attack – the escapee, dog exercising off the lead, dog not under close control but 99 per cent of the time it’s irresponsible dog owners who are at fault not the dog,” said PC Allen.

“The consequences for the farmer can be horrendous, it can affect loss of blood-line, affect next year's stock especially when ewes are in lamb or are lambing; the stress of it can cause a ewe to abort often many days after the attack, but as a police officer in the court system we have to work with the beyond any reasonable doubt scenario.

"How can we prove to a court that the ewe has lost her lamb seven days later because of a livestock attack? We can’t,” he added.

The Livestock Worrying Police Working Group report before Parliament calls for the power of search and seizure for police, the power to obtain a DNA sample of a suspected dog, to make the crime recordable and for cases to be heard at crown court and compensation and fines to be reviewed.

"And in addition, we would like to see a legal obligation to report attacks by dog owners to the police,” added PC Allen.

Highlighting how the North Wales rural crime team is using technology to fight rural crime and gather evidence, Mr Taylor said that ten farms in Dyfed-Powys and eight in north Wales have now also been fitted with wildlife cameras. Footage from the cameras will soon be broadcast live online, allowing people to see the protection they are providing.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, who has set a strategic direction for the force to provide rural support to replicate what was set-up in north Wales, told attendees: “The next step in that journey, is that we create a resource across the whole of Wales with a dedicated team.

"We are already in conversation with Welsh Government, to seek their support and hopefully some financial support as well to have someone who can coordinate all that activity across all of the four forces in Wales.”

Speaking after the event, FUW deputy president Ian Rickman said: “Those who have experienced and witnessed such incidents will be all too familiar with the stress and heartache that follows and we will do all we can to support our police forces in getting a change in the law. The most important thing any farmer can do to help speed up the process is by reporting livestock attacks to the police.”