Sheep and Livestock worrying is a growing problem in the UK. As a farmer there are certain rights you hold in order for you to protect your livestock. In the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 worrying is defined as: attacking or chasing livestock in a way that may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock (and in the case of females, abortion, loss or reduction in their produce), or simply being at large in a field containing sheep.
The owner or person in charge of a dog who worries sheep is guilty of a criminal offence. As the owner of the livestock, you may bring criminal proceedings against the dog owner with or without the support of the police.
If the police have a reasonable belief that a dog has been worrying livestock on agricultural land and no one is present who admits to being the owner of the dog, Police are able to seize it under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.
A grey area arises around whether you are within your rights to shoot the dog that is worrying your animals. The law says that if the dog is or is about to worry the livestock and shooting it is the only way to stop it so may shoot it as an absolute last resort. You must report any incident to the police within 48 hours and be able to prove that it was the only way to stop the dog as you may need to defend your actions in court.
There are some preventative methods you can take to protect your livestock. You are within your rights to erect clear signs asking dog-walkers to put their pets on leads whilst in the vicinity of livestock and you should always report any crimes to the police and ask for a crime number as this will help to build a more accurate picture of the problem and may help to raise public awareness. For any farmer who has livestock on open-access land or registered common land you are able, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act to close the area to dog walkers once a year for six weeks during the lambing season.