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Police officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Country Watch team are issuing a stark warning to dog walkers to ‘keep dogs on leads in rural areas or face possible prosecution’.
This follows a number of incidents in the East Hants area, in particular the South Downs, whereby owners have been walking with dogs off lead and not under close control. They have subsequently chased or attacked livestock and wild animals.
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 it is a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock and police want to make sure owners are aware that in such instances, the owner/person in control of the dog can be prosecuted, and the dog can be shot by the farmer to end an attack.
Our Country Watch team will be increasing their proactive patrols of hot-spot areas as the weather begins to improve and the Health Protection Regulations begin to ease. This will includes areas such as the South Downs which have begun to see an increase footfall in recent weeks, and is likely to continue as we move into Spring and Summer months.
During a recent incident on Thursday 18 February at West Tisted Manor Estate in the Meon Valley area, a dog walker lost control of one of their dogs while on a walk. It subsequently ran into a field containing a number of sheep, with the dog had been caught, but not before it had attacked a sheep.
A 61-year-old woman from London took full responsibility and a Community Resolution order was issued with a £500 fine – payable to the victim by means of compensation. She was also ordered to sign a Dog Behaviour Contract, part of which is a direction to keep the dog on a lead in a public space, as well as writing a letter of apology.
In addition to increased routine patrols in rural and countryside areas across Hampshire, our officers will also be seeking to utilise the use of Force drones in areas where we have seen incidents occurring previously. This will allow them to counteract and manage the issue around livestock worrying or animals being attacked by dogs.
Therefore our advice to those walking their dogs in rural areas is to:
• keep your dog on a lead or close control at all times, not just when in a field with livestock
• if there is no livestock in the field, keep the dog in sight at all times, be aware of what it is doing, and be confident it will return to you promptly on command. If you cannot be confident of this, the dog should not be off the lead
• ensure the dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.
East Hants Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer, Ian Bassett, said: “These particular incidents are unfortunately commonplace in rural areas. Livestock worrying offences can cause significant impact financially to a farmer in order to treat injuries or replace the loss of livestock, while having a detrimental effect on the livestock farming business.
“We would urge that owners are fully in control of their dogs, know where they are at all times and confident that they will return when called. This will play a vital role in reducing the number of livestock worrying incidents in rural areas, which can lead to the loss of animal lives or cause undue stress to the animals; all of which has huge ramifications for farmers.”
As always, if you see anything suspicious please dial 101, or report it to us via our online reporting tool on the Hampshire Constabulary. If a crime is taking place please dial 999.
For more information about the countryside code, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code.