TOUGHER powers to tackle livestock worrying took a significant step forward on February 2, with the announcement of government backing for new legislation. 

Livestock worrying - when dogs chase, attack, or cause distress to livestock - can result in significant injury and suffering and in the worst cases, the death of the animals involved. These incidents are also distressing for livestock keepers and can have significant financial costs. 

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill – a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Dr Thérèse Coffey MP - the police will be given greater powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively - making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further attacks. 

Since the original 1953 Act was brought in, the number of livestock in England and Wales has doubled with more people visiting the countryside.

By supporting the Bill, the Government is delivering on pledges made in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare and recognising the financial and emotional impacts farmers face as a result of dog attacks on livestock.  

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “Livestock worrying has a devastating impact, causing distress to farmers and their animals, as well as the financial implications. 

“This Bill will crack down on this issue, widening the scope to protect more farm animals covered by law and giving police more powers to act. We will do all we can to support its swift passage through Parliament.” 

Dr Thérèse Coffey MP said: “We have heard from the police that they need more up-to-date powers to help them identify the dogs that are attacking and worrying livestock, and subsequently their owners. It is great to get out and enjoy nature, but dog owners should be careful and ideally put their dogs on a lead when on or near a working farm to avoid such attacks.”

The Bill would modernise existing legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose, including extending the livestock definition to include alpacas and llamas and widening locations where enforcement can be taken to roads and paths.

The Bill will also address current enforcement challenges and give the police more powers to seize dogs after serious incidents and greater powers of entry, as well as the power to take evidence samples from livestock and dogs help investigate these crimes.

Support for this Bill builds on the Government’s efforts to enhance its world-leading standards of animal welfare. The UK was the first country in the world to introduce animal cruelty offences and is the highest ranked G7 nation according to World Animal Protection’s Index.  Its flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed it to going even further to protect animals. 

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill – which is only possible now the UK has left the European Union – will put an end to the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain, stopping animals enduring unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury on long journeys.   

The recently introduced Pet Abduction Bill – which has government support - will create a new specific offence to tackle dog and cat abduction.  

Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, the government has also brought in new laws to recognise animal sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences; extended the ivory ban to cover other ivory bearing species; introduced legislation to ban the keeping of primates as pets and supported legislation to ban glue traps, the import of detached shark fins and measures to ban the advertising and offering for sale of low welfare activities abroad.