Catch the Canine Culprit campaign

Our open upland and uncultivated landscapes are maintained by grazing animals, but the survival of traditional hill farms is increasingly precarious.  One of the tragedies which farmers face is that of sheep worrying by dogs: sheep and lambs are killed and injured and ewes abort because of uncontrolled dogs.  This is a nationwide problem though few records are kept.

The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society (DLPS) employs a Livestock Protection Officer, Karla McKechnie, who is on call round the clock working for the welfare of sheep, cattle and ponies on the moor.  She records that last year there were at least 70 sheep attacks by dogs on Dartmoor, but only a fraction of the dogs were caught and owners cautioned. Usually the dogs run off and cannot be traced.

???????????????????????????????It is a losing battle, despite the welcome cooperation of the Tavistock police.  A solution must be found or some farmers may give up grazing the commons.  This will affect their livelihood and the hillfarming community and also have an impact on the landscape and our access there, the biodiversity and archaeology of the uplands.

The DLPS has come up with a brilliant idea.

Simple step
In April 2016 a new law takes effect which will require everyone, with a few exceptions, to have their dog microchipped by the age of eight months.

Threatened lamb by the River Walkham, Dartmoor

Threatened lamb by the River Walkham, Dartmoor

It would be a simple step, at the same time as a dog is microchipped, to make it compulsory that a DNA sample is taken and recorded on a register.  This would mean that if a dog later attacks livestock and then runs off, the DNA which is left on the victim can be matched to that on the register, the dog identified and the owner fined or charged as appropriate.  The effect will be that dog owners are discouraged from allowing their dogs to cause injury because they will know that they can be traced.

Of course it would apply equally to injuries to other stock and to humans.  There have been many terrible incidents of children being mauled by dogs.  DNA registration would lead to owners taking more care and thus better dog behaviour.

Sheep has had ear torn off by dog attack

Sheep has had ear torn off by dog attack

The DLPS is launching its campaign to Catch the Canine Culprit, promoting the idea of compulsory DNA registration.  It needs to persuade ministers to include this in the regulations for microchipping, which have recently been adopted by government (The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015).  It is seeking support from kindred organisations, such as the Dartmoor Commoners Council, the RSPCA and the National Sheep Association.  The Dartmoor Preservation Association has already agreed to back the campaign and there has been coverage in the Farmers’ Guardian and Western Morning News.

Ponies on White Tor, Dartmoor

Ponies on White Tor, Dartmoor

The biotech company Streetkleen has the technology to produce the database of DNA records.  Once the registers are in place, to be held by the local authorities, a swab can be taken from the bitten area of an attacked sheep and the DNA matched with that on the register.

With the forthcoming election, the DLPS will invite parliamentary candidates for Dartmoor constituencies to support the pledge for a new law.  But this campaign is relevant far beyond Dartmoor, so let’s hope that other national parks, welfare groups and farming bodies recognise its merit—for farmers, animals welfare and public access, and that they agree to sign up to compulsory DNA registration for dogs.

Karla McKechnie, Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer

Karla McKechnie, Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in campaigns, common land, Dartmoor, Dartmoor livestock, Defra, National parks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Catch the Canine Culprit campaign

  1. Barry Quest says:

    Karla. Fully agree with DNA micro chipping if it works. Is there a petition? If so then count me in as a responsible dog owner.
    Barry Quest

  2. Mary Dombay says:

    You seem to think it will be so easy and cheap. StreetKleen may sell you a DNA program but do you have a powerful enough computer to run that program and that is compatible with that program? You will then need staff to process the data collected from the DNA. This will be ongoing, not a one off. Such staff do not come cheap! StreetKleen is only concerned with catching people that do not pick up their animal’s excrement. This may result in a fine or an eviction; but sheep worrying is a criminal offence in this country. If you are going to rely on the DNA collected from injured/dead animals, you will need to make sure that the ‘crime scene’ is kept secure so that no other dog may inadvertently cross contaminate your evidence. As this evidence will be presented at Court, it will have to be collected by an independent, professional body. Their findings will be compared to your database. These animals are not always found immediately and, therefore, you may have more than one animal indicated. Which is the culprit? Oh, dear. It is all starting to get very complicated. Where will the money come from? What with all the cuts we are still experiencing. I know. Let’s shut down the swimming pool and close the Libraries. WE can give less to the elderly and the disabled. And all to – potentially – catch 1 or 2 people. That is always assuming the animal has has a DNA test in the first place! No human is assumed guilty at birth of future crimes, why are dogs?

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