Often owners will get a dog after they have already got another pet animal like a cat for instance. Depending on the age of the dog or its history, some dogs can quickly develop a prey drive and chase the current pets in the house, or livestock out on the dog walk. This is extremely upsetting to witness and most owners find it very worrying.

It is important to know that there is a Dogs (protection of livestock) ACT 1953 

Livestock = cattle(bulls, cows, oxen, heifers, or calves), sheep, goats, swine, horses, (including asses and mules) or poultry (means domestic fowls, turkeys, geese or ducks)

Definition of ‘worrying’ livestock

  • Attacking livestock
  • Chasing livestock in a way that is likely to lead to in jury or suffering
  • Being at large (ie. not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure which there are sheep 


  • If a dog worries livestock the owner of the dog / the person in charge of the dog, is guilty of an offence.
  • It is summary only
  • Criminal standard of proof
  • Could also issue under section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871


  • A police officer may seize a dog he believes has worried livestock if there is no person in charge of the dog, for the purpose of ascertaining who is the owner of the dog
  • The police may thereafter detain the dog until the owner has claimed it and paid all expenses incurred by reason of its detention
  • The police can obtain a warrant to enter and search premise’s  “in order to identify the dog”

Dogs Act 1871

” Any court of summary jurisdiction may take cognizance of a complaint that a dog is dangerous, and not kept uncivil der proper control, and if it appears to the court having cognizance of such complaint that such dog is dangerous, the court may make an order in a summary way directing the dog to be kept by the owner under proper control or destroyed

  • Civil standard of proof applies
  • Unlikely to be legal Aid available
  • Summary trial
  • No fine nor compensation available
  • Can’t get a warrant to seize the dog
  • Can apply to dogs that are dangerous to animals / people
  • Not expressly limited as to where it applies (private or public place) 

3 Aspects to Dogs Act 1871

  • Ownership  – at the time it is in court
  • Not under proper control – it is a matter of fact. A lawful visitor to a property has protection under this legislation
  • Dangerous  – whether the dog has a dangerous character, nature, disposition or propensity. A single incident is unlikely to be sufficient unless it is exceptional

Powers available under Dogs Act 1871

  • No order, or
  • Control order, or
  • Control order + conditions or
  • Destruction
  • Discretionary disqualification888
  • Costs

All the information has been take from a hand-out produced by Cooper & Co Solicitors and delivered by Trevor Cooper at a Dog law seminar to which I attended. 

Predatory aggression (chasing or worrying of livestock) can be controlled from instilling good obedience training from puppy stage through to the maturity of that dog. And where possible exposing the dog to the livestock, be it domestic or not to which the dog needs to ignore or not display a prey drive too. But that’s not always possible.

Often re-homed dogs, will display a prey drive at some point. The law is clear on this predatory behaviour, so careful attention and a re-training programme needs to be implemented to prevent the dog getting in trouble with either a farmer other land owner. It’s now probably at a point where you need to act?