Legislation aimed at tackling livestock worrying requires amendments before it passes, a Holyrood committee has said.
The Bill, put forward by SNP MSP Emma Harper, aims to increase the penalties for dog owners whose pets harass farm animals to a maximum of six months in prison, £5000 or both, as well as being able to seize a dog suspected of the offence.
Members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee doubted if that would act as a sufficient deterrent.
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Scotland Bill would also, if passed by MSPs, amend the meaning of the term livestock to include other types of farmed animals such as buffalo or llamas, as well as allowing the issuing of orders preventing offenders from owning pets or taking them near farmland.
Evidence to the committee suggests the disqualification orders may be against the European Convention on Human Rights, however, and it asked how the orders would be applied in practice.
The committee also voiced its opposition to allowing police the power of entry and search without a warrant while investigating the offence.
The report said: “The committee has very real concerns about the powers proposed in this section of the Bill and questions whether they are legally competent.
“It is therefore not persuaded that the powers of entry, search and seizure without a warrant are required.”
Despite their misgivings about the legislation, the committee recommended the Scottish Parliament allow its passage at stage one, as well as allocating sufficient time for it to be passed.
Convener Edward Mountain said: “In principle, the committee is supportive of new legislation which would introduce tougher enforcement powers and increase penalties for livestock worrying as dog attacks can cause suffering to farm animals and significant financial cost to farmers.
“However, the evidence from stakeholders has highlighted a number of areas in the Bill on which the committee considers more clarity and/or amendment is needed to assist in achieving its objectives and making it as effective as possible.
“In particular, our report raises concerns about the lack of clarity around the intent, appropriateness and practical application of several of the enforcement and prosecution provisions in the Bill.”
He added: “We have also called for the specific proposals to create new inspection bodies and those to grant the police the power of entry, search and seizure without a warrant in cases of livestock worrying to be removed from the Bill.”
The committee asked Ms Harper to work with the Scottish Government to make the necessary changes, to allow the Bill to pass before next year’s election.
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