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Illegal Fishing and Livestock Worrying Being Tackled By Surrey Rural Crime Team

Published on: 9 May, 2020
Updated on: 10 May, 2020

Illegal fishing and livestock worrying by dogs, especially in the lambing season, are being tackled by the Surrey Police rural crime team.

The team, a sergeant, two constables and six PCSOs, say the offences are growing in some areas, the fishing around Farncombe, the Guildford area, and the east of the county. Off-road biking is also raising complaints in the Tandridge area. In addition, the team have been reminding rural landowners about outbuilding security.

Unlicensed anglers can be prosecuted for theft and during lockdown it is not a reasonable excuse to be at the water’s edge. DEFRA has made it clear that angling is not a permitted exercise and travelling to go fishing is not allowable.

Livestock worrying where a dog chases or attacks livestock in a way that causes harm is a criminal offence. Dog owners should:

  • Keep your dog on a lead near livestock and, if they get agitated, walk them away;
  • Ensure your dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access;
  • Ensure your dog is under control and will come back to you on your command. If it doesn’t it shouldn’t be off the lead;.
  • If there is an encounter with your dog and livestock then try to contact the farmer first so they can get there as soon as possible, then contact police; and
  • Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to have your dog under full control at all times even when walking along a footpath next to their field.

And all landowners should:

  • Have clear signs visible at entrance points, warning dog walkers about livestock in the field;
  • 
Check your livestock regularly in case any have been attacked;
  • 
Maintain fences, walls and hedges to make it more difficult for dogs to get into grazing fields; and
  • 
Ask your neighbours to alert you if they see attacks or loose dogs near your livestock.

And landowners are warned about outbuilding security:

  • Fit a good quality padlock, with a hardened steel shackle (the part which opens and passes through the hasp) to all shed doors. The shorter the shackle the better because it prevents the jaws of bolt-croppers being placed around it;
  • Use anti-tamper screws or smear hard-setting glue on the screw-heads of the door hinges;
  • Lock or permanently fix windows shut and cover them, perhaps with an old curtain, so no one can see what is kept inside;.
  • Install a shed alarm and place a sticker in the window or on the door to advertise the fact;
  • Mark valuable property, including lawnmowers, power tools, bikes, and garden furniture by permanently etching on your postcode and house number;.
  • Invest in a secure storage toolbox;.
  • Chain bicycles, lawnmowers and motorbikes and secure them to a fixed point in the shed;
  • Always lock vehicles when left outside and keep the keys in your possession;
  • 
Consider storing more expensive electrical goods indoors or in a more secure building such as a brick-built structure;
  • Make sure fences/gates to your property are secure and remember to put any property away at night or when you go out during the day; and
  • 
Darkness is the perfect cover for burglars so install outside lighting which comes on only when people are present.

Chief Inspector Michael Hodder said: “Sheep worrying by dogs is an ongoing problem and with thousands of new lambs in particular across the county, I would urge dog walkers to keep their animals on a lead and under control at all times while around livestock. Your normally docile pet can turn bloodthirsty killer in a moment and a farmer can legally shoot a dog that is chasing livestock.

“I’d urge anyone living in a rural community to alert us to any suspicious activity or anyone disregarding the Countryside Code, such as not observing footpaths, walking across crops, leaving gates open or being abusive when challenged. We’re also keen to hear from you if you see people using bikes, scramblers, or quad bikes in an inappropriate way in rural locations, such as footpaths, which puts other people at risk.

“The team is also patrolling rural areas to prevent people congregating at beauty spots and we will continue our policing approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging people to observe the government guidance. Only as an absolute last resort will we enforce. We do not want to criminalise people unnecessarily and we appreciate the pressures the public are facing, but we will use our powers if necessary.

Under government regulations, you should only leave the house for very limited purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible;
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle, alone or with members of your household;
  • Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.

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