Sheep with dog attack injuries stnding in field

A vicious attack by a bull mastiff and two border collies left 70 sheep mauled to death and a West Lothian sheep farmer £20,000 out of pocket.

But after a court case the owner of the dogs has been charged only £400 and no compensation has been awarded to the farmers.

NFU Scotland has hit out at the Scottish legal system after last week’s trial at Livingston Justice of the Peace Court.

See also: Your legal rights on shooting dogs on your land

The union is calling for the Scottish Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to treat incidents of sheep worrying with greater seriousness in future.

“We honestly and truthfully thought we would see justice in court. But we have been left speechless.”
Caroline Hamilton

The attack on 100 ewes and lambs owned by the Hamilton family at Cairns Farm, Kirknewton, happened 18 months ago, but the owner of the dogs pleaded guilty to an amended charge earlier this month.

As a result of this amended charge, no compensation was awarded to the Hamilton family for their losses or the deep trauma the incident caused.

Now NFU Scotland has appealed for the legal system to ensure that farmers and landowners whose livelihoods depend on these animals are properly recompensed for their losses.

In the meantime, the only recourse open to the Hamilton family to secure compensation is to consider a civil claim.

Caroline Hamilton said the family felt it had been completely let down by the legal system.

“There appears to be no appreciation of the severity of the impact such a case has on ourselves, or indeed the agricultural community. We honestly and truthfully thought we would see justice in court. But we have been left speechless.”

She described what happened on the day of the attack: “When we went to check out flock, what we found was devastating.

“There were 85 ewes – one-third of our flock – covered in blood, some were dead and some with injuries to their neck and faces. 

“We came across three dogs – we shot one, one ran away and another we caught. We were instructed by police to return the one we caught to its owner.

“It took more than two days to gather the ewes and their lambs in from the hill, a job that normally takes three to four hours.

“Many were so traumatised that they had to be lifted and brought in with the quad bike and trailer.”

She continued: “Ewes and lambs were hiding in ditches, and behind rushes, bleeding from the neck and face, some had been attacked the previous day or two and, because of the warm weather, wounds were already infested with maggots.

“For our flock, there were many ewes that had been too badly injured to ever breed again. That, as well as the continuous veterinary costs for the dressing of wounds and antibiotics, leaves us with a huge financial burden.

“The effect on other farmers whose livestock are killed and injured by dogs is immeasurable. How can we, as farmers, and the farming community at large possibly trust the legal system from here on?”

Two ewes with dog attack injuries to faces and necks

Close-up of injuries to sheep's face after dog attack