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Westminster Hall Debate: Wildlife Crime

This week I attended a Westminster Hall debate this week on Wildlife Crime to raise his concerns on the lack of action taken on livestock worrying as well as a number of other issues.

Currently, the law states that livestock worrying is an offence committed by anyone who owns or is in charge of a dog which worries livestock. The term worrying means:

• Attacking livestock;
• Chasing livestock in such a way as may be reasonably expected to cause injury or suffering; in the case of ewes. This includes abortion or loss or reduction in the number of offspring;
• Not having a dog on a lead or under close control when close by, or in a field or enclosure with livestock.

There are four main pieces of law that can be applied to the issue of livestock worrying and dogs, namely, the Dogs Act 1871, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, the Animals Act 1971 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The 1871 and 1971 Acts create civil liabilities and the 1953 Act creates criminal responsibility. There are also some elements of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which may be relevant to dog control, in this scenario.

Over two years ago, I was part of an All-Party Parliamentary Group which published a report into livestock worrying.

Following the publication of the report a response from Lord Gardiner of Kimble, a DEFRA Minister, was given and it stated:

“[The report] has been helpful for us to ensure the guidance and advice we have recently provided to local authorities and the police takes into account the need to ensure that measures are taken to help prevent dog attacks on livestock and that if they do occur, they are dealt with properly.”

He went on to note that the Government has:

“…taken the advice of APGAW to insert a reference in the draft Dog Welfare Code on the importance of owners preventing dogs from chasing or attacking any other animals, including livestock and horses, through use of the lead, or avoidance of such situations. The draft revised Code…will come into force in April this year.”

I also raised my worries that the funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit is only guaranteed until 2020. The UK Government has tried to cut its funding before. In 2016 it took a dedicated campaign to keep the unit going and as we are in the final year of funding I wanted a pledge from the environment minister that this money would be forthcoming.

Livestock attacks have become overlooked by the UK Government. Without a robust policing model in place and support for the farming community more animals will perish. The actions of those unwilling to put their dog on a lead around livestock is costing millions to the sheep farming industry and action is needed now.

Attacks on sheep in Delyn have become an all too regular occurrence. I have met several times with the local police officer responsible for rural crime and farmers to ask what more we can do to support them. I was pleased to be part of the All-Party Group that published a report into the steps that need to be taken, but it has now been two years since that report and the UK Government hasn’t made any progress.

I also had the opportunity to raise my concerns over the lack of funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit. They only have funding secured up until 2020 and they help police forces up and down the country track and trace criminals who harm both British and overseas wildlife. Labour created the Unit in 2006 and to see it go would be a great loss to our fight against animal cruelty and crime.