Skip To Content

Improved police powers to tackle livestock worrying crimes welcomed by NSA

7th February 2024

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is welcoming steps taken toward tougher punishments for the crime of sheep worrying by dogs this week following full Government support being given to new legislation to tackle this devastating issue.

Following the updated legislation, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill, Police will now be given greater powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively - making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further attacks.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “Sheep worrying by dogs has a devastating impact on livestock across the country and so it is fantastic news that the update Bill has been approved and will help increase powers to protect livestock.”

Since the original 1953 Act was brought in, the number of livestock in England and Wales has doubled with more people visiting the countryside, highlighting the urgent need for an updated piece of legislation, something NSA has campaigned for for many years.

Mr Stocker continues: “The Bill addresses issues identified with a lack of police powers, relating to gaining evidence, detaining, and gaining entry to property where responsible dog owners and their animals reside. The Bill will include also extending the landscape covered where attacks on livestock can be considered a crime to include roads and paths.”

NSA’s own work to highlight the issue has demonstrated the incidence and severity of sheep worrying by dogs cases across the country with cases reported increasing year on year, particularly following the Covid-19 periods of lockdown and subsequent increase in dog ownership.

NSA Project Manager Nicola Noble says: “As UK farmers we work to some of the highest standards of health and welfare, and are bound by rules and regulations to ensure standards are maintained. What’s most frustrating is all our hard work, time and investment can be undone in one irresponsible action, completely out of our control. The Bill won’t be an immediate fix for resolving the problem but will provide the police with more powers to achieve an agreeable solution when a sheep attack occurs and empower farmers to take back some of that lost control”.

News of improved police powers will be welcomed by the sheep farming community but NSA believes they do not go far enough to act as a serious deterrent to irresponsible dog owners.

Mr Stocker concludes: “Despite this welcome news it is still very disappointing, considering the impact dog attacks can have on animals’ welfare, business viability and farmer mental health, that there is no significant strengthening in the financial penalty or criminal penalty for offences.”