Technical question here on the protection of livestock, the eternal shooting dogs worrying livestock question, but with a bit of a complex twist. Now, its not imminent in any way, but he's had it happen before, and IF I see a dog worrying his stock in the future, I'd like to know where I stand.
I have shooting permission on a patch of Farmland - now, I know that if I see a dog worrying the farmers livestock on his land, then I have the power within the law to shoot it, However his land is bordered on two sides by common land, over which the farmer has rights of common, and as such is permitted to graze his animals there - one patch of common land is in the ownership of the national trust, the other patch has no legal owner, and a such the management and administration is vested in the local council.
1971 protection of animals act says:
Killing of or injury to dogs worrying livestock.(1)In any civil proceedings against a person (in this section referred to as the defendant) for killing or causing injury to a dog it shall be a defence to prove—
(a)that the defendant acted for the protection of any livestock and was a person entitled to act for the protection of that livestock; and
(b)that within forty-eight hours of the killing or injury notice thereof was given by the defendant to the officer in charge of a police station.
(2)For the purposes of this section a person is entitled to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if—
(a)the livestock or the land on which it is belongs to him or to any person under whose express or implied authority he is acting; and
(b)the circumstances are not such that liability for killing or causing injury to the livestock would be excluded by section 5(4) of this Act.
(3)Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person killing or causing injury to a dog shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if, either—
(a)the dog is worrying or is about to worry the livestock and there are no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying; or
(b)the dog has been worrying livestock, has not left the vicinity and is not under the control of any person and there are no practicable means of ascertaining to whom it belongs.
(4)For the purposes of this section the condition stated in either of the paragraphs of the preceding subsection shall be deemed to have been satisfied if the defendant believed that it was satisfied and had reasonable ground for that belief.
(5)For the purposes of this section—
(a)an animal belongs to any person if he owns it or has it in his possession; and
land belongs to any person if he is the occupier thereof.
So, by my reading of the relevant legislation, if I see a dog worrying the livestock that belongs to my friend the farmer on the common land, then I would be within the law to shoot it.
It occurred to me that this was only a statutory defence to a civil law case, and that I might still be in trouble for armed trespass, however S20 of the 1968 firearms act is subject to 'reasonable excuse' - which I would have, since I was acting under the 1971 animals act to protect livestock.
it then occurred to me that I might be in breach of National Trust byelaws, but these only prohibit possession of firearms by unauthorised persons, and go on to state that an authorised person would include (b) A person acting in the legal exercise of some right in over or affecting Trust property.
So, as far as I can see - If I see a dog worrying my farmers livestock on common land where its allowed to be, then I would be within my rights to shoot it if necessary.
Just to be clear, this is hopefully just an academic exercise in the law, but if the situations ever does come about, I would like to know what to do.