Are farmers legally entitled to shoot dogs on their property?

A farmer in Rivington says she will shoot dogs on her land
A farmer in Rivington says she will shoot dogs on her land

Although many farmers believe that they have the right to shoot a dog that is causing a nuisance on their land, the issue is a legal grey area.

The issue has come to the fore after a Rivington farmer said she would shoot any dog found on her land.

Megan Needham, of Higher Knoll Farm, issued the stern warning to dog owners after the latest attack on her flock

Megan Needham, of Higher Knoll Farm, issued the stern warning to dog owners after the latest attack on her flock

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The Farmers Weekly has offered the following advice for farmers:

If a dog belonging to somewhere else enters a farmer’s land, it amounts to trespass. That said, responding by shooting and injuring or even killing a trespassing dog amounts to a civil wrong, which, in turn, could mean the farmer is liable to the dog owner.

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The Animals Act of 1971 states that where a dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock, any person who is a keeper of the dog is strictly liable for the damage.

The Act goes further, and provides statutory defence to farmers who injure a dog in order to protect their livestock. To be able to rely on the defence, farmers will need to demonstrate that:

An image of one of Megan Needham's sheep after a dog attack

An image of one of Megan Needham's sheep after a dog attack

(a) there are no reasonable means of preventing the worrying (or the dog has been worrying livestock);

(b) the dog has not left the vicinity;

(c) the dog is not under an individual’s control; and

(d) There are no practicable means of ascertaining its owner. What constitutes the necessary practical steps will depend on the circumstances, but it could extend to trying to ascertain whether anybody in the immediate vicinity is the owner, and who would have the ability to bring the dog back under control.

In addition, if a dog is shot, it is crucial that the local police are notified within 48 hours.