Home   News   Article

Shock NFU Mutual stats reveal doubling of cost of dog attacks on Scottish livestock

By Hector MacKenzie

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

SHOCKING new statistics suggest dog attacks on Scottish livestock cost an estimated £123,000 last year – double that figure for 2022.

Complacency among some dog owners alongside an inability to control their pets contributed to the spike, according to NFU Mutual.

The shocking statistic comes as NFU Mutual’s latest survey of over 1100 dog owners released today found more people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022.


WATCH: Heartfelt plea from crofter after distressing dog attack leads to death of sheep

Did you know you can face £40K fine or prison if your dog attacks farm animals?

WATCH: Black Isle sheep finds silver lining in Storm Babet 'swimming pool'

A casualty of sheep worrying.
A casualty of sheep worrying.

Worryingly, less than half (49%) said their pet always comes back when called.

Almost eight per cent admitted their dog chases livestock but 46% believed their dog was not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals.

More than half (54%) felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing.

If present at an attack, 57% of dog owners would intervene to stop it, 22% would report it to a local farmer and 11% would call the police.

Across the UK, dog attacks on livestock were estimated to cost £2.4 million last year, up nearly 30% compared to the previous year.

National Sheep Association highlights sheep worrying.
National Sheep Association highlights sheep worrying.

The National Sheep Association has also frequently raised concerns and issued guidance.

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Scotland manager, said: “The doubling in the cost of dog attacks on livestock in Scotland is incredibly alarming for the country’s farmers and crofters, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets underway and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers about the complacency and naivety of some dog owners who regularly allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside, seemingly unaware of the carnage the dog could cause, then are horrified when an attack happens.

“There have also been incidences where dogs have chased, injured and killed sheep and the owner is nowhere to be seen.

“Farmers are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific and needless suffering to livestock and can traumatise all involved dealing with the aftermath.

“All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pet and keep them on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock. If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it, to a local farmer and the police, so that the injured animals are not left suffering in pain.”

NFU Scotland policy advisor for rural business, Rhianna Montgomery said: “We are disappointed to see that the impact and cost of livestock worrying on Scottish farmers and crofters has increased significantly, suggesting a surge in instances of worrying and attacks by dogs. We need to understand the reasoning behind this increase in irresponsible dog ownership and ensure that we are doing everything we can to promote the message to the public.

“Dog owners need to be aware of the pain and suffering their pet has the potential to inflict when they attack livestock, as well as being aware of the repercussions.

“We continue to encourage farmers to report all incidents of livestock being attacked by dogs to ensure that our hard-won changes to legislation hold all irresponsible dog owners to account.”

Inspector Jordan Low of Police Scotland added: “Protecting livestock is an important issue and a priority for the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) membership.

“Livestock worrying and attacks can result in injury, miscarriage and even death. The damage and distress caused not just to the animals, but the farming business is considerable.

“It is also a crime. It is the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog is on a lead and under control when livestock is present. Failure to do so can result in a fine up to £40,000 or a 12-month prison sentence.

“Police Scotland through SPARC is committed to working with its partners to increase public awareness of the legislation to protect livestock from dog attacks and irresponsible dog owners will be prosecuted.”

Call to action

With many dog owners planning to visit the countryside at a time when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable, NFU Mutual is calling for them to:

  • Keep dogs on a lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go of the lead if chased by cattle
  • Be aware that all dogs, regardless of size, breed, and temperament, can cause the distress, injury and death of farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers
  • Never let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More