Rural crime tsar ‘devastated’ after livestock worrying act dropped

The UK’s police lead for livestock has criticised the government after it dropped the Kept Animals Bill, containing the new Livestock Protection Act.

Rob Taylor, wildlife and rural crime co-ordinator for Wales, had spent seven years working on the new act, which seeks tougher penalties for irresponsible dog owners who allow their out-of-control pets to attack livestock.

See also: What to do if you’re a victim of… sheep worrying

“The disappointment is huge because we really believed we had an act that was fit for purpose and would deliver for everyone with the goal of decreasing dog attacks on livestock,” Mr Taylor said.

“Having the bill being scrapped and the carpet being pulled from under my feet is devastating for the farmers, the animals and the dog owners.

“We are no further down the road than we were 10 years ago. If the government doesn’t want to back us, who will?”

Mr Taylor said the new act was intended to add additional powers to the “outdated and inadequate” Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, to deter dog attacks on farms across England and Wales.

The act contains four key amendments:

  1. Increasing the scope of livestock species and locations covered by the law, such as llamas, emus, enclosed deer and donkeys.
  2. A new power to take DNA samples from livestock and dogs suspected of an offence, which will help the police investigate these crimes.
  3. Broadening the legislation to prosecute owners whose dogs carry out attacks on livestock away from farmland, such as when stock is being moved.
  4. The introduction of a banning order for dog owners whose pets commit acts of livestock worrying.

Mr Taylor said he had attended parliament twice and had sat in front of 16 MPs and received endorsement for the act from Defra, the Welsh government, UK police forces, the RSPCA and others.

In 2013, Mr Taylor formed and managed the first dedicated police rural crime team while he worked as a sergeant at North Wales Police.

The team became aware of the massive issue of livestock worrying – not just in North Wales, but across the UK.

Mr Taylor said efforts to educate dog owners about livestock worrying had helped, but tougher penalties were now needed to act as a deterrent.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer told parliament measures in the bill would be taken forward “individually during the remainder of this parliament”.