Police will be given greater powers to crack down on irresponsible dog owners whose pets attack livestock under proposals being brought forward by a Tory former environment secretary.

Therese Coffey is planning to introduce measures she said would make it easier for the police to catch offenders and secure more prosecutions.

It follows the Government’s decision earlier this year to pause plans for a raft of new animal welfare protections, which included measures intended to strengthen and expand laws on livestock worrying.

Ms Coffey told the PA news agency she has been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and so is confident her proposals will have Government support.

Ms Coffey’s plans are being brought forward in a Private Member’s Bill – which tend to be shorter and more narrow in scope than Government legislation – and while still being finalised, will not include all the measures the Government had proposed for livestock worrying.

Expanding the list of farmed animals protected by the law to species such as emus and llamas was proposed by the Government, but Ms Coffey said her Bill will instead focus on expanding police powers to protect “what is currently defined as livestock”.

She said: “The principal issue is to basically increase powers for the police to be able to make it easier for them… so that can be about increasing powers for seizure, giving them powers to get DNA, making it easier to collect evidence like dental impressions, so we’re going to make it easier for the police to do their job.

“We’re giving police more of the powers that they’ve asked for to be able to tackle irresponsible owners.”

She said it was a “concern expressed by many farmers” that too many offenders are going unpunished, and said she hoped by strengthening the law it would become a “significant deterrent”.

Ms Coffey said some dog owners need to be “far more responsible about the countryside, and in particular, about the attacks on other animals”.

She said: “When there are live animals around, keep your dog on a lead – be responsible.”

“I think farmers should be able to allow for their flocks to get around their lands without having to worry constantly about dangerous dogs. And this is just the way to make it easier for the police to catch the offenders and get prosecutions,” she added.

Ms Coffey’s Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill aims to amend the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, and is currently listed for its second reading – the first debate on the Bill in the Commons – on February 2.

The National Farmers’ Union said it was “grateful” to see the plans come forward and encouraged dog owners to enjoy the countryside “responsibly”.

Its livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said: “Farmers recognise the importance of good animal welfare and livestock worrying and dog attacks causes stress and aguish for farmers seeing their animals suffering, in addition to the significant financial impact felt.”

Government plans to strengthen the law on livestock worrying – announced in June 2021, prior to Ms Coffey becoming environment secretary – stalled when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was withdrawn in June this year.

Raising concerns that the flagship Bill on animal welfare was at risk from “scope creep”, the Government said at the time it would instead focus on using single-issue legislation to introduce some of the proposed measures.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We fully understand the devastating impact that livestock worrying can have on farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications.

“Existing legislation provides a specific offence of allowing a dog to worry livestock with a maximum fine of £1,000.

“All reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences.”