Scottish ministers will seek to increase the punishment for the offence of livestock worrying so that animal owners could be sentenced to up to a year behind bars or fined a maximum of £40,000.
Rural affairs minister Ben Macpherson confirmed the Scottish Government will try to make the change as part of a bid to update laws on livestock worrying.
SNP MSP Emma Harper has brought forward a members’ Bill at the Scottish Parliament, seeking to modernise the law on what she described as being an “horrendous event”, which can involve sheep or other animals being chased, attacked and even killed by “out of control dogs”.
Ms Harper said: “In many cases sheep and other livestock are mauled to death or left with horrendous injuries and in extreme distress. Often many of them must be euthanised.”
Current legislation on the offence dates back to 1953, she said, with the law now “outdated and no longer fit for purpose”.
Figures from the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime revealed that from April 2018 and March 2019 there were 321 attacks on livestock in Scotland – with Ms Harper saying such incidents could be underreported.
“Evidence suggests livestock attacks is a growing problem and warrants legislative change,” she said.
As well as increasing the maximum penalties for such offences, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill would also extend the definition of livestock to include farm animals such as alpacas, lamas, and buffalo, as these are not currently protected by the legislation.
Mr Macpherson said the changes were a “useful modernisation” of the law.
He said: “The main focus of the Bill is to increase the maximum available penalty for the offence of livestock worrying. This is a worthwhile aim.”
He confirmed the Government would bring forward an amendment to the Bill, to increase these to a maximum fine of £40,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months.
The rural affairs minister said: “The vast majority of people in Scotland treat livestock with respect and care. However, the small minority who do not must be held accountable for the consequences.”