FARMING MATTERS: Sheep farmers’ anxiety over dogs

National Sheep Association warning about sheep worrying by dogs
National Sheep Association warning about sheep worrying by dogs

Agricultural shows and events this summer will be a perfect opportunity for the National Sheep Association to remind members of the public about the importance of keeping dogs on leads when they are near to sheep.

NSA communications officer Katie James said it was important for the association to continue its work of building positive relationships with the dog owning public to ensure improved behaviour by a minority of dog walkers who continue to allow their animals to run free around livestock, often with devastating results.

She said: “We share the frustration of our members about the number of completely avoidable attacks on sheep.”

However, instead of portraying negative messages about shooting dogs who worry sheep, the NSA wants to share a more positive message about dog owners enjoying the beautiful landscapes in the countryside, which are created by the hard work of sheep farmers, and to consider the impact an attack can have on farmers and their business and livelihood.

For several years the NSA has collected data and opinions on sheep worrying attacks to gain an insight into its severity and unseen consequences. Results from NSA surveys have highlighted the seriousness of the issue, including statistics such as 85 per cent of sheep farmers who have suffered sheep worrying attacks experience feelings of stress and anxiety, leading to almost a quarter of those affected considering giving up sheep farming as a result.

Mrs James said: “This personal angle is a really important one to share when talking about attacks on sheep, as dog owners often think their pets are ‘just playing’ and do not understand the wider picture. We want to help them understand the people affected by the crime and how it all links to the management of the great British countryside and the vital role of rural communities.”

The NSA is also encouraging farmers, who are reluctant to report attacks, to start and report every attack, to help build an accurate picture of the true scale of the problem.

Mrs James said: “It is vital that every time sheep are worried it is reported to the police and a crime or incident number issued.”