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Rise in sheep worrying causes concern across East Ayrshire

A rise in reports of sheep worrying is causing concerns for farmers across East Ayrshire.

People walking with their dogs have a responsibility to ensure that they are under control and don’t cause distress to animals they meet while out walking, including livestock like sheep.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The definition of worrying sheep includes attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury or abortion and a dog being off the lead or not under close control in a field or enclosure with sheep.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code also clearly lays out the responsibilities of people enjoying the local countryside with their dogs, stating: “In exercising access rights, you must keep your dog(s) under proper control. You must also ensure that your dog does not worry livestock.”

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code also advises the following when walking near sheep:

  • Do not take your dog into a field where there are lambs. Go into a neighbouring field or onto adjacent land. In open country, keep your dog on a short lead (2 metres or shorter) when there are lambs around and keep away from them.

  • Keep your dog on a short lead or under close control if you need to go into a field where there are sheep. The SOAC defines ‘under close control’ as close at heel and responsive to your commands. Stay distant from the sheep.

  • Keep your dog under close control in more open country where there are sheep and stay away from them.

  • The SOAC reminds dog owners that in some cases a farmer has the right to shoot a dog that is attacking their livestock.

  • If you are handling a group of dogs, make sure that they do not cause alarm to livestock.

Dog walkers have to keep their dogs under control especially around sheep. Sheep can lose their lambs if they are put under stress and this can have a significant impact on our farmers’ livelihoods. Police Scotland’s rural crime section is working with officers from the Council to address these issues, but we need your help. Please keep your own dog under control and be respectful to others.

If you have any concerns contact:

Animal Welfare (Environmental Health) Telephone: 01563 553538 Email: Or Police Scotland on 101


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