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Widely misunderstood by both prosecuting authorities and by owners, we frequently find ourselves advising on the legalities regarding dogs worrying livestock. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 an owner is liable if a dog worries livestock on agricultural land. This act is owner liability/punishment based. For any orders to be imposed on the dog, proceedings would also have to be brought against the owner under Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 in that the dog is dangerous (in the ordinary sense i.e. in its general disposition rather than on this occasion only)

“Livestock” includes cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses and poultry. For ‘cattle’ the legislation means bulls, cows, oxen, heifers or calves. ‘Horses’ includes asses and mules, and ‘poultry means domestic fowl, turkeys, geese or ducks. Game birds are not included unless the birds are taken into possession i.e. in a release pen or laying pen, once released from a pen they are considered wild and therefore they do not belong to anyone. Other livestock not protected include Llamas and Alpaca.

Agricultural land includes land used as arable, meadow or grazing land or for the purpose of pig or poultry farming, market gardens, allotments, nursery grounds and orchards.

‘Worrying’ is where a dog is
a) Attacking livestock,
b) Chasing livestock in such a way that it could reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering or, in the case of females, abortion or the loss or diminution of their produce (milk yields etc).
c) 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.

Sheep dogs, police dogs, guide dogs, working gun dogs or a pack of hounds (in Scotland “a dog lawfully used to hunt”) are exempted. An offence is not committed if at the time of the worrying the livestock were trespassing, the dog belonged to the owner of the land on which the trespassing livestock were and the person in charge of the dog did not cause the dog to attack the livestock.

There is no right to shoot a dog under this Act if it attacks livestock merely that the person in control of the dog has committed an offence.

There are no powers to seize and detain a dog other than for identification purposes.

The Animals Act 1971 (England and Wales) & The Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 (Scotland)

Civil liability arises from the Animals Act 1971. Anyone who is the keeper of a dog that causes damage by killing or injuring livestock could be financially liable for the damage caused. For the purposes of the Act the keeper is the owner or the person in possession of the dog. The head of the household is liable where the owner is under the age of 16. The keeper of the dog is not liable where the damage is due wholly to the fault of the person suffering it or if the livestock were killed or injured on land onto which they had strayed and either the dog belonged to the occupier or its presence was authorised by the occupier.

Under this Act there is a defence available to someone who is the subject of civil proceedings for killing or injuring a dog that was worrying or about to worry livestock. This person would have to be the owner of the livestock or someone who was authorised to protect the livestock if they were not the owner.

The defence can be used where there were no other means of ending or preventing the worrying or where the dog that had done the worrying was still in the vicinity and not under control and there were no practicable means of establishing ownership. This means that if a dog were shot whilst worrying livestock and its owner was in the vicinity the shooter would not necessarily be able to rely on this defence as ownership had been established. The person killing the dog must inform the police within 48 hours of the killing or injuring of the dog. Without defence the killing or injuring of a dog may be regarded as criminal damage.

Lawful Excuse - A person shooting a dog without lawful excuse may commit the offence of criminal damage, however, Section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 recognises that a person cannot stand idly by and watch his property being destroyed. A person will have lawful excuse to damage or destroy property (a dog) belonging to another if:

1) at the time of the act he believed that the person who owned the dog had consented to its destruction or would have so consented if he had known of the circumstances. It is very unlikely that any dog owner would consent to its destruction for chasing animals or game, but if the person killing the animal can convince a court that he genuinely believed this to be the case he will be found not guilty.
2) he was doing it to protect his own property, provided that his property was in immediate need of protection and the means used to defend it were reasonable. As game, once it has been released into the wild, is not classed as property the killing of dogs to protect it is not a lawful excuse.

So, unless there is lawful excuse for killing or injuring a dog, the offence of causing criminal damage will be committed.

Use of Firearms - Using a rifle to shoot a dog worrying livestock may cause the shooter to end up in more trouble than expected. Firearm Certificates bind the use of a firearm by additional conditions, which usually only permit their use on specific game and pest species or for target shooting. The police will rarely agree to add suitable conditions to allow the shooting of dogs when there is a requirement, as this would most likely leave them open to criticism. If a person is subsequently faced with shooting a dog with a firearm they may be prosecuted for failing to comply with their certificate conditions. However the police should not be prosecuting cases where the Animals Act 1971 defence applies, and where the decision to shoot the dog was done as a last resort in difficult circumstances.

There are no additional conditions attached to shotgun certificates, but where shotguns are used it should be at a sensible range so not to wound dogs unnecessarily.

The Countryside and Right of Way Act The Countryside and Right of Way Act (CROW Act) sets out public rights of access to open land and the restrictions to these rights. Although CROW allows anyone on to open access land (land you can access without having to use paths, including mountains, moorland, heaths, downs and registered common land) for recreation, the Act states that the public can only go on this land if they keep dogs on a fixed lead of 2 metres or less near livestock. The owner of open access land can close areas containing sheep to dogs for up to six weeks once a year, as a safeguard during lambing. Trained guide and hearing dogs are still allowed in these areas during this closure. Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

The Countryside Code in England and Wales The Countryside Code offers advice on walking your dog near livestock, as well as other information on how to enjoy a safe and responsible trip to a rural area in England and Wales. Excerpts from the Countryside Code say: “When you take your dog into the outdoors always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control … It is always good practice to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals … Keep your dog in sight at all times, be aware of what it’s doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command … Ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access.”

The countryside code England

The countryside code Wales

If you suspect that your dog may be type no amount of posting pictures and inviting opinion on the internet will make things any clearer in fact in all likelihood you will end up more confused than ever (especially when faced with kindly intended but incorrect suggestions that your dog is a Weimaraner cross when you know for a fact your dog has never even seen a weimaraner from across the road let alone been born of one).

A dog cannot be typed definitively from a photograph by anyone, experts included, its not true that the law is simply about the way a dog looks though obviously if the dog does not give the first impression that it resembles a dog of type it isn’t one. The ADBA standard focuses on the ability of a dog to do the job of a fighting dog and any faults it has related to its ability, agility, or stamina will have greater impact on a dogs type that those which are cosmetic only. Photographs can also be deceiving with a dog looking different on practically every one.

It will most likely be suggested if you post online that your dog has been seized, that you set up a support group and start a petition. Petitions are only of use if they are government ones related to the law itself, petitioning for the return of a specific dog to either the police, councils, or to the court are of no use in getting your dog back. The police or council will not release a dog they believe is a banned breed because a petition asks them to. Owning or possessing a banned breed is a CRIME and if a complaint is made and the authority has a presumption of type they must investigate it just like any other. The court when determining if a dog poses a danger to public safety if found to be type needs to be satisfied that your dog does not pose a danger to public safety that it can be kept securely, and that you are a fit and proper person to own it and that requires testimony or references from people who know you to be responsible as an owner, and your dog to be one of good temperament. The thousands of people who sign a petition in the main do not know this and the ones who do become devalued when amongst thousands of other names.

Support groups which are generally well meaning in intent can be filled with people who have stories of other cases and how they turned out, as well as sweeping statements about the Dangerous Dogs Act as a whole. Each case is different even if the charge is the same as it is dependent on the individual circumstances. Despite being an offence of strict liability there is no one size fits all strategy for dealing with section one cases (or its civil equivalent) and someone reading from the act needs not only the ability to read legal papers and cross reference in order to apply it, but also due to it being accepted as one of the most poorly thought out pieces of legislation ever written it is also necessary to be aware of and consider any case law which has been ruled upon over the last 25 years, as well as look to any other legislation which may also apply in each particular case.

Members of support groups feel an affinity with you which is good but they will ask for updates and more information about you and your dog and the progression of the case and you will feel obliged to provide this, however your solicitor (if you have one) or the organization supporting you would most likely advise you not to reveal certain information publically to avoid falling foul of the Sub judice rule.

The sub judice rule regulates the publication of matters which are under consideration by the court. Writing on the internet is publishing and sharing posts others have written is also publishing as is press involvement. Matters are considered to be sub judice (Latin for 'under judgment') once legal proceedings become active.

Criminal proceedings are deemed active once a person is arrested, a warrant for arrest has been issued, a summons has been issued or a person has been charged and remain active until conviction. Civil proceedings become active, in England, when the hearing date for the trial is arranged and, in Scotland, when the parties' pleadings have been finalised and the record is closed. Publication of material which is sub judice comprises contempt of court, a crime which is punishable by a fine of unlimited amount and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

Another problem with Support groups is that whilst well wishers are passionate about what they believe is an injustice, this can lead to a form of contagion where your case and your dog are swept away by the tide and you lose control of both and become overwhelmed at a time when you are already distressed. People may target the authorities involved for applying what they believe to be an unjust law when those applying it may well have the utmost sympathy for your circumstances and be acting fairly in your case. There are always going to be some people in authority who are not sympathetic but targeting them is hardly going to help the situation improve, and in our experience they are in the minority in any event. Attempts to bully the authorities will NOT work and will only make them cautious about sharing information with you.

The bottom line is that if you have a good solicitor, legal advisor, or experienced dog legislation related organization on board you really should be getting all the support that you need already.

We have seen lots of posts recently suggesting every case must be type argued in court. If you do not believe your dog to be of type having considered the law relating only to substantial characteristics, the burden of proof being on you to prove otherwise, and your own gut instinct regarding your dog, then of course seek an expert opinion if you are able to, but in doing so also be mindful that you may seek an expensive report only to find that the independent expert agrees with the presumption of the authorities, and also that there will likely to be delays in your case whilst this takes place resulting in rising costs for kennelling or extra hearings, which could be ordered against you should the type argument be lost as well as in the case of dogs who are seized, a delay in the return of your dog. Do not be pressured by anyone into making a decision either way it MUST be your decision as you are the one facing the cost implications and potentially conviction. Listen to the advice of a knowledgeable organization or legal advisor who will be able to advise based on the content of the actual court papers and the factors which are relevant to your case, and will treat any information you give to them in confidence.

Listen to the advice of a knowledgeable and recognized organization or legal advisor who will be able to advise based on the content of the actual court papers and the unique factors which are relevant to your case, and will treat any information you give to them in confidence. BE AWARE THAT ANYONE CAN SET UP A VOLUNTARY ORGANISATION AND SAY WHATEVER THEY LIKE. Do ask questions regarding their experience and ask for references regarding the quality of the information they have given to previous clients any genuine organization will be happy to provide this information. Also expect to be asked questions in return regarding specifics of your case and be honest as the smallest omission or untruth can affect outcome either way.

Always remember that largely you do not know the people who are in groups and on pages so best practice is not to post anything at all unless it is something you are happy with both the courts and the authorities knowing.

If your dog is lost or stolen, contact:

  • The Police (Police no longer deal with stray dogs however if your dog has been stolen you will need to report this).
  • Your local authority dog warden service.
  • Your local animal shelters/stray kennels.
  • Kennels and shelters in surrounding areas, in case your pet has wandered out of area.
  • Register your missing pet on websites such as Doglost and National Pet Register
  • If your dog is microchipped, contact Petlog on 0870 6066751
  • Contact local vets, newspapers and put posters in shops, parks and lamp posts.

Go out and search for your dog. Remember he or she may be scared and in hiding so ask people to check garages and garden sheds. Make sure that someone is at home in case your dog returns, or someone calls to say he's been found.

Prevention is better than cure!

It is always better to be proactive in preventing the loss or theft of your pet. This may seem like an obvious thing to say but it does no harm to list some of the things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your dog going missing, or increasing the chances of his safe return if he does.

  • Microchip your dog. This is now a legal requirement! The cost is minimal yet it is one of the most effective methods of reuniting lost dogs with owners. Remember to keep the details up to date by contacting Petlog if you move house or change your telephone numbers. In the case of a stolen dog, a microchip will prove that you are the owner.
  • Ensure that your dog always wears a collar with an identity tag engraved with your name, address and contact telephone number. It is a legal requirement that your dog wears a collar and tag in public. Ensure that the collar is not worn or damaged and that the buckle or clasp are secure. Do not put the name of your dog on the tag. A thief could use this to entice your dog away. If you go on holiday with your dog, have a temporary tag made with the address and telephone number of the place you'll be staying, as well as a mobile number for you.
  • Never leave your dog unattended in your garden, or tied up outside shops. Likewise, be aware that dogs can escape from open windows and doors at home, as well as the increased opportunity for thieves to enter. Just because your dog has never run away before, doesn't mean he never will, so keep him safe and secure at all times. Educate your children to close doors, windows and gates.
  • If you leave your dog in kennels, have a tag made with the name, address and contact number for the kennels.

Protect Your Dog From Being Stolen. Companion animal theft is unfortunately a serious problem in this country. The number of companion animals that are stolen from backyards and from outside stores and supermarkets increases dramatically throughout Spring, Summer and Fall. Even the "safest" neighbourhoods are not immune to this growing problem. The bottom line is: never leave your dog unsupervised

Courtesy of the Bull Breed Advisory Service 2009

Many dogs are frightened of fireworks and loud noises but there are things you can do to reduce the amount of stress suffered by your dog.

How you can help your dog

The first thing to do if you are concerned about your dog's reaction to fireworks is to watch him for signs of stress and anxiety. These can include:

  • trembling
  • restlessness
  • destructiveness
  • hiding
  • pacing
  • panting
  • attention seeking
  • shaking
  • escape behaviour
  • loss of house training
  • whining
  • barking

Any of these types of behaviour could indicate that your dog is developing a phobia towards noise. Occasionally, once a phobia begins to develop, your dog may begin to display similar symptoms towards other sudden noises, so it is very important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.

Early experiences are very important for the development of puppies and if dogs are exposed to a variety of sights and sounds from an early age, they're less likely to have adverse reactions when they grow up. However, there's no guarantee that even the soundest of dogs won't display an unexpected reaction later in life – it only takes a single scary event to induce a fear response.

Bonfire night is the main cause of sudden noise phobia

What you can do

  • Make sure his environment is safe and that he cannot escape.
  • Ensure he always wear a collar and disk – just in case of a successful escape attempt.
  • Ignore any signs of restlessness and stress and reward any calm, relaxed behaviour.
  • Prepare a "den" for him, away from windows. Cover a table with a blanket or place his bed behind a sofa where he will feel safe, secure and comfortable, or use a dog crate covered.
  • Close the curtains to reduce the likelihood of flashes, and turn on the TV or radio.
  • Feed your dog before the noise starts – this should encourage him to rest.
  • Don't leave him alone – dogs are pack animals and need the security and confidence provided by the presence of others.
  • Occupy him with food-filled toys or other fun activities.
  • Choose safe times for exercise and toileting.
  • Temporarily move his sleeping area. Moving it closer to you can increase his confidence.
  • Remain calm and relaxed yourself (even if you're frightened of fireworks too!).
  • Use a desensitization cd to gradually encourage your dog to become used to the sounds he fears.
  • Try a D.A.P diffuser, this plugs into the wall and releases dog appeasing pheromones similar to those released by a bitch rearing puppies to help calm a distressed dog.
  • Use a natural remedy such as Rescue Remedy, Anxiety, zylkene or serene-um
  • It may be necessary to seek a prescription of stronger sedatives from your vet as an interim measure whilst you address the problem.

What not to do

  • Let your dog go outside when fireworks are sounding, even if he shows no signs of stress.
  • Exercise or walk him when fireworks are likely.
  • Punish your dog for being frightened.
  • Leave him alone during the firework period.
  • Fuss or try and reassure your dog when he is frightened, as this rewards the fear behaviour and will encourage him to repeat it.
  • Take your dog to a firework display.

Further help for you and your dog

If you take all these steps and your dog is still very distressed by firework noise, you may need some additional help from a health advisor, dog trainer, behaviourist or vet. The earlier you begin your preparations, the more likely it is that your dog will be able to cope with the sound of fireworks. A vet can give you specific techniques to help him/her to adjust to sudden sounds in a safe environment, or may refer you to a behaviourist.

Courtesy of the Bull Breed Advisory Service 2009.

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun

Periods of hot weather coupled with dogs and children spending long periods outdoors, can lead to bite incidents taking place. Dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, a symptom of which is irritability, that along with the long school holidays meaning the presence of children racing around or squealing in a paddling pool can result in a bite incident, as can family barbeques where food and is present, perhaps music is blaring, and the dogs owners are otherwise engaged. A larger number of people than usual are present and enter and leave the premises at will, a door left open can lead to the dog escaping, being stolen or being involved in an incident or accident for which the owner will be legally responsible.Visitors may also not be comfortable with or know how to act around dogs. It is the owners responsibility both legally and morally to ensure that their dog is not put in the position where an incident could take place, and thought should be given to putting the dog into a quiet room during parties or gatherings.

Health risks

As soon as the weather becomes warmer it seems as if the dog population has risen, dogs who have been walked around the block during the winter months are taken to the beach, local beauty spots or the countryside, but it's important to remember that hot weather affects dogs in many ways.
It can cause irritability leading to bite incidents and even death for your pet. Even a short walk during the hottest part of the day can cause heat stroke which causes the dogs core temperature to rise rapidly, unfortunately if this happens on a walk it often proves fatal before a dog can be taken to a vet.
All breeds of dogs can suffer in the heat, white dogs or dogs with white ears or faces can suffer horrific sunburn.  Black absorbs heat so black dogs can succumb to heat stroke far quicker than a different coloured dog in the same situation as can long coated breeds, and dogs with very short muzzles such as bulldogs or pugs who can struggle to breathe as the mucus membranes in the tongue , mouth and throat swell in order to attempt to cool them.

Foot pads can also be damaged due to being walked on extremely hot surfaces and tarmac. Yet still we see the seasonal droves of people heading out at midday for a stroll with a heavily panting dog trailing at the end of a lead. Please please please take dogs out only in the early morning or late evening, your dogs life is a very high price to pay for the sake of a midday stroll.

Heat exhaustion is often caused by over-exercising or running with a dog during hot weather. It can occur even in the early evening so care should be taken with the nature of the exercise given during the summer months. Both heatstroke and heat exhaustion can result in brain damage, heart failure or even death in a short period of time. Again short muzzled or thick-coated breeds and mixes are particularly vulnerable, although any breed may be at risk, particularly black dogs.

Always bring cool water along when walking with your dog during hot weather. To cool off an overheated dog, offer him plenty of water, then wet the dog's body and paws with cool water, then fan. A dog's normal internal body temperature is between 100.5 degrees F and 02 degrees F. Signs to watch for are: heavy, loud breathing, staggering gait, bright red gum tissue and tongue.
If heatstroke is suspected, try to cool your dog down as quickly as possible with cool but not cold water, so as not to shock the dogs system and seek veterinary care quickly as this is a serious medical emergency.


If your pet spends any length of time outdoors during summer, make sure he has a shaded place and plenty of fresh water to drink. Your pet will need much more water in the summer to replenish what he loses by panting. Many dogs also enjoy swimming for exercise and to cool down, though care should be taken if they are allowed to swim in canals or slow moving water as there is an increased risk of leptospirosis and although dogs are vaccinated against this as part of their vaccination course they are only vacced against the more common strains and there is doubt that the vaccination lasts more than six months, this is a terrible illness that is transferable to humans and often results in death for the dog.

Please do not allow your dogs off lead near a canal as the high sides prevent your dog being able to climb out if he should fall in.

Dogs die in hot cars

Leaving your dog in a parked car in the summer (even with the window left a few inches open), can cause heatstroke within minutes. Note: Leaving your dog in a car parked in the shade does not assure that your dog will not become seriously overheated. Shaded cars may still get very hot due to the greenhouse effect, and the sun may also move enough to change shaded areas into sunny ones. Dogs left in parked cars also risk being stolen. Prevent your dog from hanging his head out of a moving car window when taking him for a ride. Bugs, small pebbles and other debris can injure his eyes, and he is at risk of jumping out of the vehicle.

Open Windows, Fire Escapes and Rooftops

During hot weather, many people leave a few windows open in their home to help create a nice cool cross-breeze. If you have a dog or cat at home, be certain to install secure window screens (or safety bars) in any of the windows which will be left open, or close all windows before leaving the house, if your dog sees or hears something exciting outside he may use an open window as an escape route even if he has never done so previously, also many companion animals fall out of windows, and fire-escapes every year and are often seriously injured or killed.

Courtesy of the Bull Breed Advisory Service 2009.


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If you are worried about your dogs appearance and are considering contacting the police, please ring us first for advice and assistance.

07873 666 778 or 07873 666 779