Virginia Crosbie presents parliamentary bill to tackle livestock attacks

Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie has presented a bill to parliament today aimed at tightening the law around livestock worrying by giving the police the right to seize dogs and take DNA samples.

Virginia wants to amend the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 through a Ten-Minute Rule Bill.

Speaking in the Commons, Virginia said the 68-year-old Act was unfit for modern times and it failed to protect and adequately compensate farmers across Anglesey and the UK from dog attacks on their livestock.

She said the legislation had not kept pace with dog ownership, leisure trends, DNA technology or modern farming practice.

In 2020, the cost to the farming community of livestock worrying was estimated to be around £1.3 million, she told MPs.

It is estimated that around 15,000 sheep are killed by dogs each year and in the lockdowns it has been a growing problem as more people visit the countryside.

She told parliament the government’s Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill does address “Dogs attacking or worrying livestock” but she added, “it still does not go far enough”.

“Specifically, my Bill proposes the police be given the power to seize a dog (or other items) and to take DNA samples where they have reasonable grounds for suspicion that the dog has worried livestock.

“It has to be a legal requirement that dogs be kept on a lead when they are near livestock of any kind,” she explained.

She said the upper limit of the fine – currently set at a maximum of £1,000 – must also be removed. 

“Where farmers are facing costs of up to £20,000, irresponsible dog owners must be made to realise the full financial impact of their actions.,” she added.

Virginia also told MPs of the experience of one Anglesey farmer who suffered a dog attack on his flock.

Tecwyn Jones found seven pregnant ewes and three rams dead in his fields in Bodedern from a dog attack in February this year.

“When I visited Tecwyn’s farm he told me about the impact the attack had on his business and his well being.  His account of the event was harrowing,” she said.

“He shared the awful moment when he found his sheep, coming across one dead sheep then another, sheep that he had lovingly reared – their faces torn – in the pouring rain. 

“The dogs that carried out the attack have never been identified.  Even if a dog was suspected the law has no teeth to identify and seize it unless it is found unsupervised at the scene of the assault.

“For Tecwyn it was not just the financial loss that hit him – although that went into the thousands of pounds – it was the emotional loss of these prized animals which he had put his time and devotion into rearing.”

Virginia first became involved in the issue when local farmers Brian Bown and Peter Williams raised it as a significant concern.   She has met the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team who is working with the NFU to gather data.

The bill passed its first reading and will return to the Commons for a second reading on 10th September.

Read the speech here.

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