Last weekend, two dogs that live nearby got out of their garden –not too difficult when there is no containing fence – then came up the burn into my garden. The end result of their foray was five of my six hens and almost half of my ducks being killed. I am now left with ten ducks, a solitary hen and a really upset wife and grandchildren. The dogs were a Labrador and a spaniel. The Labrador was the ringleader and had it been a trained gundog there is every likelihood the birds would either have been untouched or at least uninjured. According to my wife and a neighbour who came to help, the spaniel seemed very much an onlooker and I suspect all the damage was done by the much larger and much more unruly dog, which was still rampaging through the wood after my ducks when I arrived home.
In this case I received adequate compensation from the dogs’ owner to replace my stock, to cover loss of egg production and also to cover bringing on more young ducks to the point that they begin to lay eggs. The alternative would probably have been to resort to civil action. Paying for damage done is not the point, of course. Anyone with a dog, especially one that is untrained and known to be unruly and even aggressive, should ensure that it is kept under proper control. I have seen many instances over the years when dogs have attacked livestock and paid the ultimate price of being shot. I have also seen many cases of the dog or dogs returning to the ‘scene of the crime’ at a later date to continue the killing spree.
For anyone else who may find themselves in the position of being a victim of dogs attacking livestock I have included a short piece from my book Wildlife and the Law that may help clarify the rather poor legislation in relation to the action that can be taken against dog owners in this instance. What follows is the position in Scotland. I am not clear how different this might be in the rest of the UK.
Dogs worrying livestock
A dog unaccompanied in a public place can be seized and dealt with by police or dog wardens as a stray, but this is the most minor of the offences. Some dogs worry livestock, and while it is often legitimate for the livestock owner to shoot the dog, there are limits on this offence by dint of the definition of ‘worrying livestock.’ This term, within the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, means attacking cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses, asses, mules, domestic fowls, turkeys, geese or ducks; chasing livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or, in the case of females, abortion, or loss or diminution in their produce, or being at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. The offence must have taken place on agricultural land, which means land used as arable, meadow or grazing land, or for the purpose of poultry farming, pig farming, market gardens, allotments, nursery grounds or orchards. These offences would be dealt with by the police.
The definition above would not extend to a garden. A situation with a dog attacking poultry kept in a private garden would be excluded from the offence and would therefore require to be dealt with by the Local Authority under the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, despite the fact that most calls reporting this type of incident would be made to the police.
See Wildlife and the Law and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy contact me on email@example.com