A bill to increase the penalties for dog owners whose pets harass farmed animals has been put out to public consultation as a Holyrood committee begins its stage 1 scrutiny.

The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee has issued a call for views on the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, introduced by Emma Harper MSP, which aims to strengthen and update the law in relation to so-called “livestock worrying”, which it restates as “attacking or worrying livestock”. 

Amending in particular the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, the bill would provide additional powers for the investigation and enforcement of the offence and increase the maximum penalty to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, or both. 

It would also allow a court to make an order disqualifying convicted persons from owning or keeping a dog for a certain period, or preventing them for taking dogs onto agricultural land on which livestock is present. 

Police and inspectors would be given new powers to seize a dog for the purpose of identifying its owner or gathering evidence. “Livestock” would be redefined to reflect the species now farmed in Scotland, including llamas, alpacas, ostriches, farmed deer, buffalo, and enclosed game birds. 

Committee convener Edward Mountain MSP said: "Dog attacks cause suffering to farm animals, resulting in distress and significant financial cost to farmers. 

"Emma Harper believes the current law in relation to livestock worrying is out of date and that tougher enforcement powers and penalties are needed to act as a deterrent. 

"The purpose of the committee’s call for evidence is to understand the need for further legislation in this area and to seek views on whether the additional powers and increased punishments proposed are sufficient and proportionate."

Click here to access the call for evidence. The deadline for responses is 28 August 2020.