Sheep Worrying in Midlothian

Midlothian stretches over 137 square miles, reaching from Pentland Hills Regional Park to the small village of Falla, and is a county steeped in history with its diverse historical buildings and picturesque mining villages.

It is also home to a significant farming community, and March through to May is the lambing season. Over the past few years however these months have seen an increase in sheep worrying incidents.

Sheep worrying occurs throughout numerous areas in Midlothian, including Penicuik, the Pentland Hills Regional Park, Roslin, Loanhead, Rosewell, Dewarton, Gorebridge and Pathhead. In the Pentland Hills Regional Park Sheep worrying occurs throughout the Regional Park but it is a significant issue for farmers in the Flotterstone, Harlaw, Bonaly and Dreghorn areas in particular. Collectively these farms have over 4000 sheep and during lambing season approximately 3000 lambs are born.

Sheep worrying does not only refer to the animals being attacked or injured but also includes the animals being disturbed or chased. The lambing months are a crucial period for lamb development and disturbance can have adverse or fatal effects on their survival. For example, disturbed young lambs can be driven from shelter and may be separated from their mothers, potentially leaving the farmer to hand rear the lamb or lose it through starvation. Sheep worrying through disturbance and fatal injury from dog bites have been experienced by farms.

These problems are highlighted to dog walkers across the country. Although the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone the right to access most land and inland water, it must be done responsibly. Remember:

Never let your dog worry or attack livestock;
Do not take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals;
If you go into a field of farm animals, keep your dog(s) on a short lead or close at heel.

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953

Subject to the provisions of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1953, if a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land, the owner of the dog, (and/or the person in charge of it) is guilty of an offence.

For the purposes of this Act worrying livestock means—
attacking livestock,
chasing livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or, in the case of females, abortion, or loss of or diminution in their produce, or
being at large (that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.

If a dog is identified to be worrying livestock, the keeper and any person in charge of the dog at that time can face a fine and a court can make order for the dog to be destroyed. The owner of the livestock may also take direct action at the time including shooting the dog to protect their stock.