The National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging dog walkers to #takethelead and use a lead near livestock when in the countryside over the Easter school holidays.
Thousands of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year and livestock worrying costs the industry an estimated £1.6 million. But this figure is just the tip of the iceberg as many losses are uninsured and often unaccounted for.
The NFU’s warning comes as pastures are full of ewes grazing with their newborn lambs and ewes that are due to give birth.
NFU adviser James Osman said: “Over the Easter break the NFU is reminding people to keep dogs on a lead, rather than letting them run freely because livestock may be nearby. Dogs naturally have a chase instinct and they can inflict the most terrible bites on sheep which can die slowly and painfully of their injuries. Pregnant ewes can also abort their lambs if chased by dogs.”
Mr Osman added: “Dog attacks on livestock should be avoided at all costs. They can end in tragedy both for the farmer and for the dog owner whose pet can legally be shot by a farmer it it’s chasing sheep or cattle.”
If a dog worries livestock, the dog owner or the person responsible for the animal at the time is guilty of an offence under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and may be sued for compensation by the farmer.
Isle of Wight NFU chairman Matt Legge, a commercial sheep farmer and pedigree sheep breeder, explained how sheep farming is a labour of love. He said: It takes two years of care and attention for me to raise a sheep - from lamb to breeding ewe, when she can go on to produce her own lambs. So it is heartbreaking for a farmer when flocks are attacked by dogs. I’d ask dog walkers to be conscious that even the smallest dog can injure a sheep so #takethelead and use a lead around livestock. This is a critical time in the sheep farming year when our ewes have lambs with them and many others are about to give birth.”