New powers have been introduced that enable police to search homes, identify and seize dogs suspected to have attacked livestock.

The Kept Animals Bill introduced on June 8 is intended to give police in England and Wales the power to respond to livestock worrying more effectively.

The measures include:

  • Increasing the scope of livestock species and locations covered by the law, such as llamas, emus, enclosed deer, and donkeys. New locations will include roads and paths as long as the livestock have not strayed into a road.
  • Increasing powers for the police to seize dogs after particularly serious incidents, if there is a reason to believe that dog might pose an ongoing risk to livestock. Currently, the police can only seize a dog for the purpose of identifying the owner, and it has to be returned to the owner once they have been identified.
  • A new power to take samples from livestock and dogs suspected of an offence, which will help the police investigate these crimes. At present, most cases of livestock worrying don’t end up in prosecution due to a lack of evidence.
  • Modifying powers of entry, meaning that police can enter a premises to identify and/or seize a dog or any items they believe to be evidence of an offence. Making dog control, disqualification and destruction orders available to the courts upon a conviction for the offence.

Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, said: "Growing up on a farm, and having suffered from a dog attack at home, I know first-hand the devastating effect of livestock worrying and the distress that it causes farmers and animals as well as the financial implications.

"We are cracking down on this issue by introducing new laws to tackle this offence and giving police more powers to act on reports of livestock worrying."

While the NFU has welcomed the new legislation, but wants to see more measures adopted, including larger fines and legal obligations for the use of leads around livestock.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Dog attacks on livestock are horrific and can have a massive impact on farm businesses, both practically but also emotionally for a farming family.

"I’m pleased to see the government taking clear action to strengthen the law in this area to give police more powers and tackle a growing issue for farmers as dog ownership increases.

“However, we would like to see the government go further in this area and implement increased fines.

"This can act as an appropriate deterrent and would also reflect the financial loss to the farm business as a result of an attack.

“We would also like to see a clear rule that dogs should always be on a lead around livestock.

"We believe the current wording that a dog has to be under ‘close control’ around livestock causes confusion for dog owners, farmers and the police.”