A four-month multi-agency campaign to tackle livestock worrying saw a rise of more than 50 percent in incidents being reported to Police Scotland and resulted in 55 people reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
Run between February and May, a total of 81 incidents were investigated, which is 28 more than in the same period last year and is attributed to farmers being more willing to report such incidents, although it is believed there is still a large number of incidents being under-reported.
Sheep overwhelmingly remained the most affected livestock animal with most of the incidents resulting in injury and/or death to the livestock. In many incidents the dogs responsible were alone with no owner or responsible person present, and over half of the reported incidents involved a dog that was local to that area.
Chief Superintendent John Mckenzie, who chairs SPARC (Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime) said: "Tackling livestock worrying is a priority for Police Scotland and our partners in SPARC, and while these figures are higher than before, it does indicate a greater willingness by people affected to report incidents to us.
"These figures indicate further work requires to be done in highlighting not just the message about an owner or person responsible keeping a dog on a lead if there is livestock near but a more general awareness message regarding responsible dog ownership, both in the home and when outside in the environment. To that end, SPARC is already planning the 2019 campaign which will for the first time run from January to May and again have awareness raising, education and prevention as key messages."
Gemma Cooper, legal and technical policy manager for NFU Scotland, said: “Despite a vast amount of awareness raising, livestock worrying remains a blight on Scottish livestock farming. NFU Scotland urges the public to ensure that when taking access to fields with livestock they ensure that dogs are under proper control.
“We believe it remains a hugely under-reported issue and we would encourage farmers to report livestock worrying incidents to police as soon as is practical after it has taken place.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Repeatedly allowing a dog to stray is a clear sign of irresponsible ownership; it needlessly puts dogs’ lives at risk, as well as farm animals and wildlife. We encourage the responsible majority of dog owners to report strays and support local councils in targeting the irresponsible minority at an early stage using Dog Control Notices.”