MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has savaged dog owners who showed ‘callous disregard’ for their animals attacking farm livestock.

Mr Liddell-Grainger called for ‘far tougher’ measures to punish owners of dogs which kill or injure sheep and other animals.

He said new legislation going through Parliament to give police powers to seize and detain dogs suspected of attacking livestock may not be ‘draconian enough’.

NFU Mutual estimated £2.4 million of farm animals were severely injured or killed by dogs last year, nearly 30 per cent up on the previous 12 months despite repeated appeals to owners to keep their animals on a lead when walking farmland.

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has reminded farmers they can shoot dogs which attack livestock.
MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has reminded farmers they can shoot dogs which attack livestock. ( )

The latest research suggested nearly 70 per cent of owners admitted to letting dogs run free in the countryside, while fewer than 50 per cent claimed to be able to recall them.

More than half did not even believe they needed to take active measures to stop their animals chasing farm animals.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who represents West Somerset and is the Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Minehead for the General Election, said the statistics were evidence of callous disregard for farmers shown by ‘large sections of the dog-owning fraternity’.

He said: “I cannot help wondering what the reaction would be if a group of farmers turned up in a town or city and unleashed a pack of uncontrollable dogs which then proceeded to tear to bits any pet rabbit, guinea pig, or cat within sight.

“Yet, this is precisely what the farming community is having to endure on an almost daily basis.

“Proposals to seize and detain dogs look fine on paper.

“But the reality is because rural areas are now so under-policed the chances of this legislation having any meaningful impact are close to zero.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said Exmoor hill farmers in particular would view the approaching Easter holidays with misgiving.

He said: “The fields are full of pregnant ewes and new-born lambs, all of which are at risk from out-of-control dogs and their totally irresponsible owners.

“I would remind farmers of their legal right to shoot dogs which are found attacking livestock, though only as a last resort.

“But given the fact this survey reveals so many dog owners are still untroubled by the havoc their animals can cause, clearly means we have to revisit the legislation.

“Any dog that injures a farm animal should face automatic destruction, and we need to increase the maximum fine on owners from £1,000 to £3,000, plus full compensation for the farmer, with a jail term for any repeat offences.

“I am heartened to learn there are some responsible people out there, this survey reveals that if present at an attack, 57 per cent of dog owners would intervene to stop it and 22 per cent would report it to a local farmer.

“Sadly, the growing activities of an irresponsible minority are starting to make all dogs unwelcome on farmland even though, if they are properly controlled, they and their owners have a legal right to be there.”