Response form the Association of Responsible Dog Owners (ARDO) in response
to the Scottish Parliament Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee ‘call for
evidence’ concerning the proposed Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment)
ARDO welcomes what we consider to be a much-needed focus on the issue of
dogs worrying and attacking livestock (and indeed other animals).
We commend Emma Harper MSP for recognising that existing measures in
respect of this issue are proving inadequate in effectively addressing the
problem as evidenced by avoidable and thus unacceptable year-on-year
[reported] attacks by dogs. Existing measures are failing to protect animal
welfare requirements or provide sufficient safeguards to the livelihoods of the
livestock farming and animal caretaker communities.
ARDO is committed to promoting responsibility amongst dog owners through
the provision of accurate information and responsible, proven
We have collated first-hand accounts from hundreds of dog owners (forwarded
as separate attachment) who have direct experience of their dogs worrying or
attacking livestock (and other animals), including the circumstances of the
incidents, relevant antecedents and remedial measures undertaken. Our
feedback has failed to identify deliberate recklessness or dismissive carelessness
in such respondents. Instead, we repeatedly see owners who, despite having
diligently followed published ‘best practice’ and legal requirements, have
unexpectedly fallen victim to the unpredictability of living with an opportunistic
Whilst we strongly support any improved measure to effectively bring about a
reduction in the frequency of dogs attacking/worrying livestock via changes to
existing legislation, our experience suggests that post-event increases in
punishment are unlikely to achieve this aim in isolation.
We are concerned that the proposed focus is one of reactivity minus proactivity
- punishing offenders as opposed to preventing offences.
In the majority of completed returns, owners report that they had complied with
existing legal requirements – keeping dogs on lead or under close control, even
when not on agricultural land – however their dogs have either escaped the
lead, restraint, property, vehicle or perceived ‘close control’ [unstipulated] to
then enter agricultural land where worrying ensued.
Our survey responses suggest that the strongest approach to effective
resolution for livestock attacks requires not simply tighter legislation and
harsher penalties, but also the provision of a proactive, preventative
programme focussed on reliable, proven training, education and awareness.
Responses reveal that >1/3 of dogs which have attacked livestock or other
animals were acquired from homing centres. This suggests that the need for
effective recognition, training and understanding extends beyond dog owners,
to include those responsible for placing offending dogs into the community. At
present, dogs are being homed without any record of assessment or training
having taken place to adequately address the potential for depredation
Throughout the accompanying literature supplied by the Rural Economy and
Connectivity Committee, including the existing legislation and proposed
amendments, we note that there appears to be no mention of training the dog
in either a preventative or reactive capacity. We consider this to be an unusual
omission, since at the very core of dogs worrying and/or attacking livestock is
the issue of desire within the dog to do so, approach over avoidance where
avoidance is perfectly capable of being conditioned to replace approach.
All dogs possess the innate capacity to display predation – especially towards
fleeing prey. The behaviour is also intrinsically rewarding – therefore selfreinforcing
– irrespective of whether or not prey is caught as a consequence; but
just because a behaviour is innate, does not mean that it cannot be effectively
and efficiently modified through appropriate training: https://youtu.be/_i-
Livestock worrying is unique to any other canine behaviour problem in that it
legally and justifiably permits a person to cause the dog to suffer painful injury,
or a slow, inhumane and agonising death, not to mention the harrowing
dismembering suffered by the victims. This is despite the fact that the behaviour
is both scientifically and empirically repeatedly proven responsive to preventative, proactive aversive conditioning procedures, yet intractable to
‘reward-based’ training efforts .
As responsible dog owners with a firm focus on provision, promotion and
preservation of good welfare not limited to that of the dog, we would like to
draw attention to:
Annexe B; S3 “a person killing or causing injury to a dog shall be deemed for the
purpose of this section to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if ..
(a) [the dog is] “about to attack or worry the livestock and there are no other
reasonable means of ending or preventing the attacking or worrying”
Multiple scientific studies, together with thousands of empirical reports –
including a substantial amount of video evidence supports the proportionate,
professional inclusion of quality electronic training aids for the (often lifelong)
prevention of livestock approach or depredation by dogs.
Such proactive, preventative intervention works not only “for the protection of
livestock” but for the dog itself and must surely also be considered a “reasonable
means of ending or preventing the attacking or worrying”, especially where it is
used in the prevention of such incidents in the first place and the alternatives of
“killing or causing injury to a dog” are deemed legally and morally acceptable?
The National Sheep Association also recognise this fact:
“NSA supports tightened regulations surrounding electric dog collars, to ensure
they are not misused. However, when used efficiently and responsibly, NSA can
see the benefits of their use as a dog training aid, particularly in regards to
training dogs not to worry livestock.”
Annexe A: The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953; S1 (2) C states that a dog
- “on a lead or otherwise under close control”
ARDO considers this wording to be vague and open to [mis]interpretation. There
is no definition of what constitutes “a lead”, meaning that a person could walk
an untrained dog on a 30’ ‘lead’, within a 10’ distance of livestock, thereby
risking the welfare of both whilst following legal instruction.
More importantly, we find the wording “under close control” to be highly
subjective and wide open to individual interpretation.
We neither seek nor endorse the permanent confinement of a livestockavoidant,
highly obedient dog to the unnecessary restriction of a short lead
when in rural locations; however, we must highlight the fact that “close control”
is unnecessarily vague.
We would support and actively participate in the design and delivery of a
training programme to train and assess dogs as suitably fitting the classification
of being under “close control” in the presence of livestock. For us, ‘close control’
means implicit obedience and absolute responsiveness under the distraction of
livestock and/or other animals. We see no benefit in any grey areas in respect
of this requirement where lives and livelihoods are concerned; in fact, unless
the dog is working, we would encourage this level of control together with as
opposed to separate from “on a lead” when knowingly in the presence of
ARDO support increased penalties, the extension of the term “livestock” to
include other animals, the powers to appoint inspectors and an increase in
powers of seizure and inspection by veterinarians.
On the question:
“Does the bill adequately balance the rights of dog owners and the rights of
We feel that the answer to the question is “yes”, however we feel that the
question fails to adequately consider animal welfare. The ‘rights’ of farmers and
dog owners are distinct from the ‘welfare’ of the livestock and the dogs.
We do not feel that – in isolation – the bill serves to proactively address or
improve the welfare of the dog or any other animal species falling under the
umbrella term ‘livestock’. Instead, we feel that the bill serves to act as a ‘hopeful
deterrent to other dog owners’ and is reliant purely on coercive, ‘scarecrow’
Whilst we support the bill, we cannot pretend to support the assumption that –
in isolation – widening the prosecution net will do anything of long-term value
towards preventing the innate behaviour of an opportunistic predator under
naïve stewardship to worry or attack livestock. We believe that this is a terrific
opportunity to collaborate on producing a preventative initiative with the power
to extend compliance beyond the reach of the legislative grasp. We would
strongly recommend simultaneously encouraging owners to swallow the carrot
of responsibility as opposed to purely promoting the stick of harsher penalties.
Dogs care nothing for fines, imprisonment or ownership bans.
Dogs care nothing for the delayed consequence of their innate behaviour.
Dogs do not comprehend human laws.
Dogs have no comprehension of morality.
Dogs have no comprehension of their own post-event injury or destruction.
Yet it is ultimately the dogs who commit what we consider to be ‘the offence’.
Based on extensive experience spanning many decades, members at the
Association of Responsible Dog Owners firmly recognise that without proven,
effective, meaningful training, no amount of owner-directed punishment is
going to actually prevent dog attacks on livestock.
Conditioned avoidance taught via quality electronic training collars save lives
and protects livelihoods, but it is impossible to condition lasting avoidance
during owner absence through rewards alone. Up to 89% of dog attacks on
livestock have ‘no owner present’, therefore instilling avoidance over approach
– even in owner absence – is absolutely essential.
This truth might well be politically inconvenient, yet it is a scientifically
undeniable truth nonetheless.
We stand prepared and committed to assist the Scottish government in
developing proactive measures in the prevention of dog attacks on livestock and
other vulnerable animals.
The Association of Responsible Dog Owners
Committed to Welfare and Safety
“Dr J. Cooper of Lincoln University explains that dogs during the DEFRA funded study could
not be permitted/trusted to be off-lead near livestock with an electronic training collar”
“The collar averted all 13 attempted attacks on lambs”
“No dogs showed interest in or attacked a lone sheep in the path test”
e-collars “resulted in complete and permanent elimination of aggression in all of the 36 dogs tested… the only treatment that has potential for success” Tortora: https://cpb-usw2.
the aversion response does not require continued use of the e-collar and “lasts at least 1 year after training” Dale and Statham: https://unitec.researchbank.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10652/2630/Dale%20et%20a
aversive measures such as e-collars “the most effective” training for predatory behaviour
Howell and Bennett: see page
“no negative effect on the dogs”
[where e-collars are banned] Dog attacks on sheep in Wales increased 113% in
The Association of Responsible Dog Owners (ARDO) is a non-fee-paying, not-for-profit collective of
like-minded dog owners, canine professionals and enthusiasts. Our purpose is to educate and to
respond without bis to pertinent, canine-related matters using both scientific and empirical evidence
on behalf of those who are ‘on the shop floor’. Historically, canine-related decisions directly
affecting dog owners, have been reached without the owners themselves having a non-political,
impartial representative body to speak on their behalf. ARDO works to provide that body, that