Farmer 'traumatised' by sheep worrying urges owners to control dogs

Alistair Hodnett’s flock have been attacked on three separate occasions.

A farmer in Dundee has described incidents of sheep worrying as “traumatic”.

In the last three years, Alistair Hodnett’s flock have been attacked on three separate occasions – in March and April last year and in January this year.

He told STV News it’s been “traumatic” for him and his family.

Mr Hodnett said: “They’re not pets, they don’t have names but we’re very much attached to them.

“I have been out in all kinds of weather conditions over the years and brought them into the world, and then all of sudden to walk in the field and to find them ripped to shreds by someone’s dog, it’s pretty traumatic.

“Then you have the after-effects of treating them for days on end…the one last April we had to put to sleep and her lamb was orphaned.”

The last 12 months have been the worst year of dog attacks since Mr Hodnett moved to the farm more than 30 years ago.

Police Scotland have also seen an increase in the number of cases being reported.

There were 350 incidents reported to officers between 2022 and 2023.

Inspector Jordan Low says investigating livestock worrying is a priority for the force, but it comes with challenges.

He said: “We rely on reporting from the farming and rural community and we rely on self reporting if a dog owner has had one of their dogs be involved in a sheep worrying or livestock worrying attack then they need to report it to the police.

“Investigation wise there is a number of tools we have at our disposal, photography and we can also utilising DNA to try and track dogs as well.”

In November 2021, new legislation was introduced increasing fines for livestock worrying to £40,000 and a 12 month jail sentence.

Rhianna Montgomery from the National Farmers Union says the new rules need to be used fully to make a real difference: “From our point of view it’s not being used to its full extent.

“We’re yet to see a case go all the way through and have the highest fines and the 12 months imprisonment. We would like to see this being used more in practice and also for the farmers to be compensated correctly.”

Alistair is still counting the cost of last year’s attacks. He said: “Those two sheep, the one we lost in April and the one we will potentially lose this week I reckon its cost me £2,000 between vets bills, my time, loss of the sheep and loss of the lambs they should have had.

“Plus we had to rear up an orphaned lamb last year by hand which is very expensive.”

As Scotland’s farmers prepare for the busy lambing season, their message is for people to enjoy the country, but keep your dog under control.

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