FARMING MATTERS: Dog owners urged to put pets on a lead around livestock

Farmer Isobel Bowden
Farmer Isobel Bowden

Many dog owners will be out walking their dogs this month appreciating the beautiful autumn colours.

But the NFU is reminding everyone to take extra care and avoid situations where pets could scare and even harm farm animals, especially sheep.

There has been a spate of attacks by dogs on sheep in the Thames Valley over the past 18 months.

Sheep can die the most terrible deaths following dog attacks. Female sheep will be becoming pregnant this autumn and can lose their lambs when chased by dogs.

I will never forget the year I lost my own pet ewe and the triplets she was carrying, when a dog chased her and brought her down.

NFU member and commercial sheep farmer Isobel Bowden has lost 70 sheep in dog attacks over the past year.

Isobel, who keeps sheep in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, has these words for dog owners: “Pease avoid potential problems and keep your dog under close control and on a lead around cattle and sheep.

“Don’t be tempted to let your pet run freely in open fields as there may be sheep around the corner - even the best behaved dogs have a chase instinct.

“Dogs can inflict the most terrible injuries on sheep which often result in death.”

If a dog chases and/or bites livestock, the dog owner or the person responsible for the animal at the time is guilty of an offence (of livestock worrying) under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, and may be sued for compensation by the farmer.

Isobel added: “The law allows farmers to shoot dogs that are threatening livestock.

“Don’t put your pet in danger, keep it on a lead and under control at all times.

“Dog attacks on sheep should be avoided at all costs.”

The NFU advises that owners should also check that their property is dog proof, to prevent dogs from roaming freely and possibly getting onto farmland without supervision, which is what caused the death of my own pet ewe.