SCOTTISH Borders Council received 100 complaints about out-of-control dogs in 2017, despite handing out only five dog control orders, new figures reveal. 

The figures, released in response to a freedom of information request, show that the complaints only resulted in six advisory warnings and five control order being given to dog owners.

The news comes in the midst of lambing season in the Scottish Borders, where incidents of sheep worrying have been reported. 

In March, a flock of pregnant ewes was attacked near Jedburgh, leaving two ewes requiring veterinary stitches and a question mark over the fate of more than 100 unborn lambs. 

Jamie Smart, chairman of National Farmers’ Union Scotland’s legal and technical committee, said: “The leading agricultural insurer, NFU Mutual, estimates that the cost to the livestock sector in 2017 of dog worrying amounted to £1.6m, but not all cases will be insured and the issue remains chronically under-reported by farmers.  

“As a result, the true cost to the industry of dog attacks is likely to be significantly higher than this figure.

“We will urge Police Scotland to adopt the use of DNA testing to prove a link between dogs carrying out attacks and the affected livestock, helping to underpin the prosecution process.

“And, crucially, the underpinning legislation – both the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 – are out of date.  

“They must be updated to guarantee that sanctions handed to offenders offer full cost recovery and have fines that fully reflect the crimes. 

“This will ensure that farmers receive adequate compensation but also deter dog owners from allowing their dogs to worry livestock.

“Strengthening legislation and access codes will support responsible dog ownership, target and deter irresponsible dog owners, and hopefully mean that the need to prosecute owners or shoot stray dogs becomes a rarity.”

Furthermore, the council has also released details of which breeds were given advisory warnings or control orders. 

Of the six advisory warnings issued to the owners of eight dogs, three were for Patterdale terriers and one apiece were for a Border collie, Weimaraner, Rottweiler, Jack Russell and German shepherd. 

Of the five dog control order notices, two were given for Jack Russells, two to Staffordshire bull terriers and one to a Japanese akita. 

A council spokesperson said: “In the case of anonymous complaints, a dog control notice cannot be considered unless the complainant can be identified.

“On investigation, if any dog is considered to be dangerous then the case is referred to Police Scotland for their consideration.

“For actionable complaints, dog control notices can only be served when the dog and dog owner are identified, the dog has been out of control and its behaviour has given rise to alarm or apprehensiveness which in the circumstances was reasonable. All elements must be satisfied in order to serve a dog control notice.

“In the case of no-action complaints, there may be a number of reasons why a dog control notice cannot be served, and these include, but are not limited to, a witness not prepared to be identified and provide a written statement as this may necessitate attending court, insufficient evidence and the dog owner and/or dog not being identified.

“There are no other powers available to the council to resolve complaints when dog control notices are deemed inappropriate in relation to out-of-controldogs.

“However, dog control officers can give advisories and offer guidance, and any complaints investigated involving dangerous dogs are referred to Police Scotland.

“The council has its responsible dog ownership strategy, which aims to remind owners of their social and legal responsibilities. 

“As part of this strategy, we work in partnership with local and national charities to promote responsible ownership and dog control by educating the public at various events across the Borders.

“This includes the council’s family and dog fun day in Hawick last year, which was attended by over 200 people.

“Due to the success of the event, the council is holding another dog fun day at Wilton Lodge Park on Friday, July 6. 

“An updated version of the strategy is due to be discussed by councillors in the coming weeks.”