Police could be be given greater powers to crack down on irresponsible dog owners whose pets attack livestock under proposals being brought forward by former Defra Secretary, Thérèse Coffey.

Thérèse Coffey is planning to introduce measures, which she has said will make it easier for the police to catch offenders and secure more prosecutions.

It follows the government’s decision earlier this year to pause plans for a raft of new animal welfare protections, which included measures intended to strengthen and expand laws on livestock worrying.

The plans are being brought forward via a Private Member’s Bill, which tend to be shorter and more narrow in scope than Government legislation – and while still being finalised, will not include all the measures the government had proposed for livestock worrying.

Expanding the list of farmed animals protected by the law to species such as emus and llamas was proposed by the government, but Ms Coffey said her Bill will instead focus on expanding police powers to protect "what is currently defined as livestock".

NFU Livestock Board chairman Richard Findlay said the NFU is “grateful” for the new proposals. He said: “Farmers recognise the importance of good animal welfare and livestock worrying and dog attacks causes stress and anguish for farmers seeing their animals suffering, in addition to the significant financial impact.

“For many years, we have been working with government and police leaders to agree the proposed legislation giving police more powers to investigate dog attacks on livestock.

“We want people to enjoy the countryside and welcome members of the public being able to see where their food is produced, but dog owners must do this responsibly.

"No matter how in control dog owners think they are, they should always remain alert and dogs should always be kept on a lead around livestock.”

Ms Coffey said: “The principal issue is to basically increase powers for the police to be able to make it easier for them. That can be about increasing powers for seizure, giving them powers to get DNA and making it easier to collect evidence like dental impressions.”

Ms Coffey’s Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill aims to amend the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, and is currently listed for its second reading, the first debate on the Bill in the Commons, on February 2.

Government plans to strengthen the law on livestock worrying were stalled when when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was withdrawn in June this year. More than 20,000 people signed an NFU petition, calling on newly-elected PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners) to implement changes to legislation to prevent dog attacks on farm animals.