DOG owners have been warned to take care walking their animals in the countryside after incidents of attacks or worrying of livestock rose 20% last year.

There were 350 such incidents in 2023, up from 290 the previous year, according to figures obtained by Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) from Police Scotland.

SLE urged people to be careful around livestock and said it is crucial to minimise the risk of dog attacks when the lambing and calving season is underway.

Police warned there are stiff penalties for those who do not keep their dog under control around farmed animals, as they could face a fine of up to £40,000 or 12 months behind bars.

READ MORE: Tory MSP threatens legal action after police log 'hate incident'

Simon Ovenden, policy adviser at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “The increase in attacks on livestock by dogs is a disturbing occurrence at a time when there have been increased awareness campaigns on this issue and penalties to deal with such incidents have never been tougher.

“A small proportion of this increase may be reflected by more incident reporting, but the statistics again clearly demonstrate that far too many people are behaving irresponsibly by failing to control their dogs and allowing them to attack or worry farmed animals, including camelids such as alpacas, and also game birds.

“Visitors, including dog owners and walkers, continue to be very much welcomed by communities and businesses in rural Scotland as spring gets underway.

“This has, however, proven to be the period when the risk of livestock worrying and attacks is at its greatest and there can be no complacency on the part of dog owners as to the risks posed in our countryside.”

He warned dog owners and walkers not to take a dog, even if on a lead, into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals as even mildly aggressive behaviour from a dog, such as pulling at its lead or barking, can severely stress a pregnant sheep and cause it to miscarry or die.

The National: Attacks by dogs can cause severe injury and even death to livestockAttacks by dogs can cause severe injury and even death to livestock (Image: Pixabay)

SLE said this is the third lambing period since the tougher legislation for livestock attacks under the new Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into full force.

The rural business organisation is one of the partners in a 2024 campaign with Police Scotland to promote the key message: “Your Dog – Your Responsibility”.

Inspector Jordan Low of Police Scotland said: “As we approach the Easter break, we want people to enjoy the countryside but to do so in a safe and responsible manner.

“Livestock worrying and attacks can result in injury, miscarriage and even death. The damage and distress caused not just to the animals, but to the farming business as well, is considerable.

READ MORE: Scotland 'space weather' could see northern lights reach Borders

“It is also a crime. It is the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog is on a lead and under control when livestock is present. Failure to do so can result in a £40,000 fine or a 12-month prison sentence.

“We have several tools at our disposal to investigate instances of livestock worrying and attacks and we will utilise these to investigate instances of irresponsible dog ownership around livestock.

“Police Scotland through Sparc (Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime) is committed to working with its partners to increase public awareness of the legislation to protect livestock from dog attacks and irresponsible dog owners will be prosecuted.”