What does the law say about my dog worrying livestock?

Dogs Worrying Livestock – Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953

Dogs worrying livestock is a commonly misunderstood area of dog law. We’ve all heard stories of dogs getting loose onto farmer’s lands, often to fatal conclusions – for both the livestock sometimes the dog that had been chasing them.

Whilst it’s a civil wrong for a farmer to shoot a dog outright for chasing livestock, the law moves into their favour if the dog is seemingly under no-one’s control and there is no means to ascertain who the owner is. It’s very important to keep your dog under control, but even if your friend is constantly on a lead, we know that slip-ups can happen. All it takes is an opportunistic bolt from a dropped lead or them slipping their head out of their collar at the sight of something to chase.

Regardless of anything else, you must understand that it a criminal offence for a dog to attack or chase livestock on private property, so even if your dog has slipped from your grasp, the moment they begin to chase livestock, even if they are in full sight and recalled soon after, you as a dog-owner have committed a criminal offence.

What does the law say?

An offence is committed by the owner or the person in charge of a dog if it attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land or if it is off a lead in a field containing sheep. The definition of livestock includes animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, poultry, pigs and horses. The Police have the power to seize the dog in cases such as this.

The maximum penalty if convicted of this offence is a fine; however, a conviction under this section can lead to a destruction order being made.

Expert evidence is essential in cases of this kind as the courts take an understandably serious view where livestock has been killed. It is always beneficial to instruct an expert animal behaviourist for cases under this act.

How we can help.

As you can tell, this can be a very complicated area of dog law to be involved in, but you can rest assured that the team at Parry and Welch Solicitors are invested in ensuring that you have the highest level of legal expertise. We will be able to help you understand the extent of the offence your four-legged friend might have committed and we’ll ensure that every avenue is undertaken to see the best possible outcome for both you and the dog you own. Legal aid may also available for cases that fall under this act.

We hope you don’t wind up in this situation, but if you do we encourage you to get in touch if you need any help at all.