The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953
Most dog owners are responsible but a few don’t keep their pets under control and incidents
of livestock worrying seem to be on the increase.
The definition of 'livestock' for criminal proceedings under The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 includes cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses and poultry. Game birds are not included.
However, for the purposes of civil proceedings under the Animals Act 1971 it includes pheasants, partridges and grouse in captivity.
‘Worrying’ is where a dog attacks or chases livestock in such a way that it could reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to it, or, in the case of female livestock, abortion, or the loss or diminution of their produce.
Legislation Governing Worrying of Sheep and other livestock
The main legislation governing worrying of livestock is:
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 used alongside The Animals Act 1971
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 it is a criminal offence for a dog to be at large, (ie not on a lead) or otherwise under close control, in a field of sheep. Sheep dogs and police dogs are exempted from this provision.
It is also a criminal offence (for which the owner or a dog - and anyone else under whose control the dog is at the time) if a dog worries livestock on agricultural land.
An offence is not committed if
a. at the time of the worrying the livestock were trespassing,
b. the dog belonged to the owner of the land on which the trespassing livestock were
the person in charge of the dog did not cause the dog to attack the livestock.
This Act is enforced by the Police and not the Local Authority.
The Animals Act 1971 is used in addition to the Dogs (protection of livestock) Act and places civil liability for damages done by a dog on the keeper of the dog. This includes damage by
killing or injuring livestock. The keeper of a dog for the purposes of this Act is the owner, or the person in
possession of, the dog. If the owner/keeper is under the Age of 16 the head of the household is liable.
Advice to Dog Owners and Dog Walkers
Dog Owners, whether they live rurally or are simply visiting the countryside for a walk, have a responsibility to keep their pets under control at all times. All dogs should be on a close lead when walking anywhere near livestock. Even the most loving family pet can become a menace when away from its owner’s control and encountering a flock of sheep.
Dogs caught worrying sheep are liable to be shot, even though farmers are reluctant to do this except as a last resort, and their owners liable to prosecution and heavy costs.