2 February 2024
Dunne backs efforts to reduce dog attacks on livestock

Philip Dunne backs a Private Member’s Bill to give police greater powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively, making it easier for them to collect evidence and calls on the Government to consider a requirement to keep dogs on a lead in open fields and also on open common land.

Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on her perseverance in not only presenting this Bill, which I know she was interested in when she was Secretary of State, but managing to get here and deliver her speech today despite her affliction. I will speak very briefly. I should declare my entry in the register as a farmer, including of livestock, and my interest as a dog owner. One of my dogs has had occasion to chase deer—they are not categorised as livestock, I do not think, in the Bill—in woods, which can be a cause of considerable distress when she does not return despite our entreaties.

I rise on behalf of farmers across the country, but in particular in my constituency in Shropshire, where a quarter of all sheep across the UK are produced from within an hour of Craven Arms, in the centre of my constituency. There are a great many livestock farmers, and sheep producers in particular, along the Welsh borders, as the House will appreciate. This measure is in considerable part directed at helping those farmers with these unfortunate incidents. A survey of NFU Mutual members—that is the insurance arm of the National Farmers Union, of which I am a member; it is my insurer—estimates that the cost of dog attacks on farm animals was £1.8 million in 2022.

This is a real and present issue for livestock farmers, in particular in spring—the time of year we are about to enter—when sheep are lambing or on the point of lambing. If pregnant ewes are chased, it can lead to the abortion and loss of the lamb they have carried for months. It can impact not only on farm incomes, but on the health and wellbeing of the livestock managers themselves if they have to deal with dangerous dogs causing trouble to their livestock.

If the Bill proceeds to Committee, I hope that some consideration will be given to the requirement to keep dogs on a lead not just in open fields but on open common land. There are many commons along the Welsh borders in my constituency, most of which are grazed by sheep. It is important that, if sheep are present, people keep their dogs on a lead on a common, which is not the normal practice in many of the commons that I visit locally. That might need to be looked at in Committee. I am conscious that this will be a short debate, so I will conclude by assuring the Minister that the Bill has my support.