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Farmers, Dogs, Sheep and the law.

Discussion in 'Legal Information for Dog owners' started by Paul McLean, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Paul McLean

    Paul McLean New Member Registered

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    Hello. I have just joined the forum. My name is Alexander and I own two Spaniels, one is a Cocker and the other a Springer, they are both working gun dogs. The other day I was walking them along a public road when one of them got close to a fence and startled some sheep that I had not seen. I used my whistle to recall my dogs who came back straight away.Within a couple of minutes I was accosted by a woman who said she had seen the sheep run away and informed me that technically my dogs had worried her livestock and could be shot. I told her I was on a public road and that she had no right to threaten me. As a consequence of this incident I did some research and found the following on another website.

    In brief the law is:
    1. A farmer commits a criminal offence in threatening to shoot a dog, and also in actually shooting a dog, unless he honestly believed his livestock was 'in immediate need of protection' and that the means of protection adopted or proposed to be adopted were or would be reasonable having regard to all the circumstances. So where shouting, throwing something or shooting over the head would be enough, then that is what should be done first to avoid committing an offence. (Criminal Damage Act 1971).

    2. The dog owner can sue the farmer for compensation, and his only defence to killing a dog is he believed and had reasonable grounds for that belief, that either 'there was no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying' or if the owner is not there, that there was no practicable means of ascertaining to whom it belongs. He must also have reported the shooting to the police within 48 hours. The dog owner has 6 years in which to bring an action for compensation. Some dogs are highly valuable. (Animals Act 1971).

    3. The dog owner commits an offence if (a) their dog is in a field with livestock worrying them, Worrying means attacking livestock, or 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 (b) their dog is not under control in a field with sheep, even if he was not worrying them, but a police dog, a guide dog, trained sheep dog, a working gun dog or a pack of hounds are all excluded. (Protection of Livestock Act 1953).

    I hope this helps and informs people. Like a lot of people have said it is always better to air on the side of caution as many farmers think they are a law unto themselves. I did not pursue this matter any further as we have only just moved into a small village and did not want to rock the boat as it were.
     
    merlina and Flobo like this.
  2. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Hello @Paul McLean - thank you for this information! very useful. Would you be able to send me the link to where you found it please? we have a new section dedicated to legal information for dog owners and this is the kind of stuff that is perfect and well needed.
     
  3. Paul McLean

    Paul McLean New Member Registered

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    Hello Josie. It was posted on a site called WorkingHPRs.com. It was from a chap whose dog had been shot by a farmer. His dog had run off and had been found several hours later shot dead in a field. It transpired that although it had run after some livstock it had left the scene. The man in question later discovered the farmer had witnessed this, had returned home, got a gun, pursued the dog and then executed it. Fortunately the mans wife was a solicitor and he posted this information. As with much of the law it appears there is a lot of grey as opposed to plain black and white. As I said in my case I was on a public road but the farmer still felt that she had just cause to threaten me. As a newbie to the forum I think I may have put it in the wrong section. Is there any way I can move it to the general discussion section?
     
  4. Flobo

    Flobo Well-Known Member Registered Partner

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    That is very relevant to a lot of people, down our way, Brighton and outskirts, sheep are being put to graze in many, popular dog walking areas, some are free grazing and some are kept surrounded by electric fencing. And although most dog owners are sensible around livestock and know their dogs, it's good to know the law, thankyou.
     
  5. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    Really helpful. Can I just add that having a firearms license is at the discretion of the licensing authority (usually in reality the local police force). If you feel threatened by a gun owner- even if they are not armed at the time but mention using it in future in an aggressive manner- you have every right to ask the local officer dealing with the issue of licenses to reconsider and withdraw it. These things are decided on an individual basis. Anyone considered a threat to the public needs to be reassessed.
     
  6. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    Its great to know the law but it wont stop a bullet..

    What is a dog under UK law ? Property so the punishment for shooting a dog would be much nor would the compensation and of course it 100% does not bring back the dog..

    Also that grey area ie *unless he honestly believed his livestock was 'in immediate need of protection' and that the means of protection adopted or proposed to be adopted were or would be reasonable having regard to all the circumstances* If the farmer says he tried shouting or throwing something and your dog did not respond and he really thought his livestock were in danger then youve lost the case and again it wont bring the dog back..

    Best bet is to play it safe and always keep dogs on a lead around sheep or other livestock ..btw Im not 100% sure but I think most police officers would say you have to have the dogs on a lead while on a public road/highway anyway..

    Our local council in their wisdom have put a small flock of sheep grazing next to the off lead dog area and the fence is 3foot high orange plastic.. Part of the plan to be a 'green city' Duh!
     
  7. Paul McLean

    Paul McLean New Member Registered

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    Thank you for the replies. I appreciate that every potential issue between farmers, sheep and dogs has to be judged individually. In my case I think the response was disproportionate to what happened. As I said my dogs both work and encounter sheep many times throughout the year. I appreciate that this is in no way an excuse to behave irresponsibly. But this was a mistake as the sheep were out of view behind some bushes and out of my line of sight. The point I trying to make is that many farmers are clearly ignorant of the law and behave as though they have a god given right to threaten people under the most minor provocation.
     
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  8. Nanny71

    Nanny71 Well-Known Member Registered

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    Dudley tried to climb up my leg the first time he saw a sheep. He was on the road and the sheep baaed at him through a chain link fence.
    Even so, if I was in a place with livestock he would be on a short leash
     
  9. Paul McLean

    Paul McLean New Member Registered

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    To clarify things. I certainly do not advocate ever going near livestock without putting my dogs on a lead. The point I am trying convey is that the myth that farmers can either threaten or actually shoot your dog without having first tried a number of measures. Clearly if your dog is out of control and attacking sheep and will not come back then you do not have a leg to stand on. Conversey the farmer cannot threaten to shoot your dog without due cause. As I said previously it is grey area sometimes. My only purpose in posting was to inform people with regards to the law.
     
    JudyN likes this.
  10. arealhuman

    arealhuman Well-Known Member Registered

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    Does the law actually allow "shooting over the head"? I'm assuming that we're talking shotguns here, and that shot has to go somewhere. Firearms control is tight in the UK, so letting off a shot like that with a risk of hitting something/someone can't be allowed, can it?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
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  11. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    As far as I'm told, the law would look unkindly on 'warning shots' of any kind whether it's at dogs, burglars or trespassers. I think a lot of landowners get their idea of what's the law from old Carry On films. :eek:
     
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