Question of Dog Control In Attacking Livestock

Andrew Selous:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of requiring dogs which have attacked livestock to be (a) destroyed and (b) trained with e-collars.

Victoria Prentis, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
The Government takes the issue of livestock worrying very seriously, recognising the distress this can cause farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications. New measures to crack down on livestock worrying in England and Wales are to be brought in through the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on 8 June 2021.

The reforms being introduced have been designed with proportionality in mind. Destruction orders would only be made post-conviction and similar powers are already available in relation to dogs that are dangerous and not kept under proper control under existing legislation (e.g. the Dogs Act 1871). Ancillary orders can be effective tools against reoffending and incorporating these orders into the general scheme of the specific livestock worrying legislation will provide greater clarity to the general public on the potential consequences of committing the offence of livestock worrying.

The Government’s proposed ban on electric shock collars will protect the welfare of dogs as hand-held remote-controlled devices can be all too easily open to abuse and can be harmful for animal welfare. Dog owners can prevent incidents of livestock worrying through keeping their dogs on a lead in the vicinity of livestock and/or undertaking appropriate training. It is important that dogs are trained to behave well, ideally from a young age, and introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals. Reward-based training for dogs is widely regarded as the preferred method of training. Owners who have concerns about controlling their dog’s behaviour may take advice from their vet or a suitably qualified dog behaviourist or trainer. The Animal Behaviour and Training Council maintains national registers of appropriately qualified trainers and behaviourists.

The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs also includes guidance and reminders for owners about their responsibilities to provide for the welfare needs of their animals and to keep their dogs safe and under control, including in the vicinity of livestock. The best proven method of preventing a dog from attacking livestock is to keep the dog on a lead when exercising around other animals, as advised by farmers and other keepers of livestock.

Natural England has also published a refreshed version of the Countryside Code, which makes specific reference to keeping dogs in sight and under control to make sure they stay away from livestock, wildlife, horses and other people unless invited. Moreover, the Countryside Code helpfully sets out certain legal requirements, encouraging visitors to always check local signs as there are locations where you must keep your dog on a lead around livestock for all or part of the year.