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New livestock attack DNA project in North Wales

The force will collaborate with a forensic research team at Liverpool John Moores University.

North Wales have teamed up with a forensic research team to implement a DNA-based investigation process to identify dogs who have committed livestock attacks.

Industry data suggested that last year livestock attacks cost British farmers £1.52m.

The new initiative has been funded by DEFRA and is part of an ongoing research project that began in 2021. It sees Rural Crime Team officers taking swab samples from injured and deceased livestock at crime scenes.

Samples are then sent to researchers who attempt to isolate the DNA of the canine involved.

The swabs however are not currently admissible in court.

The Kept Animals Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and will give officers the power to collect DNA samples from both livestock and suspected dogs – it can only be taken where evidence points to a particular dog and is not a proposal for a national DNA database.

The Bill would also provide increased seizure powers for officers; strengthen the court’s position to disqualify dog owners from keeping other dogs, and expand the number of livestock species and grazing areas covered within the legislation.

Efforts to establish the best means for DNA extraction are ongoing.

RCT Officer and NPCC Secretary for Livestock Offences, Dave Allen said: “On average in North Wales there are around 120 dog attacks on livestock per year.

“Most of these are committed by dogs that have escaped from their homes and many of these incidents involve attacks on sheep.

“It’s hoped that the new DNA powers and forensic techniques being researched in the project will allow for a direct comparison with a crime scene and a dog that may have been for example witnessed leaving the scene.

“Currently, under the 1953 Act, identifying the dog involved can be difficult in those circumstances so, over the last 12 months, RCT officers have collected a number of swab samples from livestock that have been attacked by dogs.

“By submitting them to the forensic research team they can hone techniques to isolate the canine DNA, which ultimately improves our chances of tracing the owners responsible.

“This could then provide the platform for science and police guidance to be in place when the new Act becomes law.

“This is an exciting project and one that hasn’t been done anywhere else in the UK previously.”

This is not the only canine DNA scheme forces are exploring. More and more forces are joining the DNA Protected scheme which allows owners to voluntarily submit their dog’s DNA to a database so they can be identified if the dog ever goes missing.

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