A landmark bill to protect livestock through penalties like imprisonment and heavy fines has been passed in the Scottish Parliament.
The Dogs Protection of Livestock Bill reached Stage Three approval in the Scottish parliament on Wednesday 24th March just ahead of the parliament going into recess for the Scottish elections in May.
Posting on Twitter, Emma Harper MSP said: “New, updated legislation which seeks to address the increasing levels of livestock attacks across Scotland has unanimously been passed by Parliament today.
“My Member’s Bill, which has support from all political parties, Scottish farmers, outdoor access groups and dog walkers alike, will provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence of livestock worrying & attack and will increase the maximum penalties available to the courts.
“The last Bill this session. A muckle thank you to everyone who helped make this possible after more than 4 years of collaborative hard work.”
The National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) praised MSP Emma Harper for her work on the legislation over the past four years.
The Bill saw cross party support and was supported by all MSPs.
As some lockdown restrictions are eased, the lambing and calving season will also begin.
NFU Scotland held a virtual event on the night the bill passed to provide practical steps to their members and how to reduce conflict with dog owners on their farmland. The session is available to view again on the NFU website as well as informative slides on the problems facing landowners and how to combat them.
The legislation will provide a significant increase in investigation powers and the penalties issued to tackle the ongoing blight of dog attacks on livestock and dog fouling – two issues the NFU says are the biggest to farmers, crofters and landowners.
Penalties can now be extended to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months to a fine not exceeding £40,000 – or both.
Martin Kennedy added: “This bill sends out a crystal-clear message on this matter. NFUS has spent considerable time, effort and resource on this blight over many years.
“Efforts have been focussed on awareness raising amongst dog owners of their responsibilities, raising awareness amongst livestock keepers of their rights and lobbying Local Authorities and Police Scotland to use control mechanisms available to them.
“It was clear that there was a need for legislation, stronger penalties and appropriate compensation to hammer home the responsibility and liability of dog owners who do not exercise their pets responsibly on agricultural land.
“This bill is a big step forward.”
For more information on the Bill, you can visit: https://beta.parliament.scot/bills-and-laws/bills/dogs-protection-of-livestock-amendment-scotland-bill
The NFU Scotland event video can be viewed at: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/campaigns/access-information-hub/dog-access.aspx