Sheep attacks and harassment: research

Findings from survey research on sheep worrying and wildlife attacks on sheep.

8. Reporting dog attacks to the police

Overall, just a third of farmers (32%) said they had reported the most recent dog attack incident to the police. Where sheep were killed or had to be destroyed as a result of the attack, farmers were more likely to report the incident (52% reported incidents where sheep were killed and 62% where sheep had to be destroyed).

The qualitative research revealed very mixed experiences of the police and courts' response to attacks and, consequently, about whether it was worth reporting an incident.

Some farmers talked positively about the speed of the police response and the seriousness with which they took incidents. Others complained about the police taking days to come out and being "disinterested".

There was a perception that the level of understanding of the problem, and the extent to which it was prioritised, varied by area and by individual officer:

"We have a very enthusiastic police response in Argyll, as a result of, particularly as a result of some of the officers getting involved with what went on at Inveraray […] a couple of years ago with the Huskies. I mean it was horrendous, but in the overall scheme of things, there have been worse sheep attacks, it was the way things came about. So, anyway the local police here are very lively to it". […]

"Put it this way, police officers turned out from Tully[53] do absolutely nothing on the legislation controlling about dogs or sheep or livestock. They don't cover hardly any of the rural criminal law at all. So, it is only when the police officers do make the rural areas that they might get interested. Sometimes, you know, they come off a farm and they are interested, but generally speaking they're not".

(Sheep farmers, Argyll & Bute)

"Well, I said I wasn't sure [about whether he wanted to the dog owner to be charged], but the police insisted, they were pressing because they said it's getting too common and it's got to be [stopped]...the Huntly police, aye".

(Sheep farmer, NE Scotland)

One farmer explained that she had not reported the most recent dog attack on her sheep to the police because of her previous experience of a case going to court and receiving compensation for just one of the ten sheep that had been killed or injured. The most recent incident involved one sheep and she felt it would not be worth the time and effort involved for the likely level of compensation.

However, others thought that they would want to report attacks, even if just to raise awareness of the issue.

"Well, I would certainly report it, yes, I mean to try and get a bit publicity to make sure it's in the public eye, yes".

"Maybe should be reporting at least every one now. Just make a big show of it".

(Sheep farmers, Dumfries & Galloway)

Regardless of the effectiveness of the response, in some circumstances there was a concern regarding involving the police because of the potential impact on relationships with neighbours and within the wider community.

"I had the police taken out and said did I want to press charges? But, I had young bairns at the village school, and I thought, you know, they can be picked on, so I'm not sure".

(Sheep farmer, NE Scotland)

"You think twice about calling the Bobbies on your neighbour".

(Sheep farmer, Highlands & Islands)



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