A West Sussex farmer, whose sheep were attacked by a dog at Cissbury Ring on Saturday, is urging witnesses to come forward to Sussex police.
The deputy chair of West Sussex NFU, Caroline Harriott, of Lyminster, was informed by her shepherd that her flock of 55 sheep, at the beauty spot of Cissbury Ring, were all well at 8am on Saturday January 20. Two hours later she was horrified to discover that three had been badly savaged by a dog. All three in-lamb ewes (pregnant females) suffered deep puncture wounds consistent with biting, to their heads and necks. One of the ewes also suffered leg injuries while the third ewe’s throat had been ripped open.
“It was horrendous to find them in this state. Two of the ewes belong to my 16-year-old son and they’re in their first year of breeding, due to lamb (give birth) in March. I reported the incident to police and we have brought the sheep home for veterinary treatment. We have put up posters around the site encouraging people to report any information to Sussex police on: 101 and asking them to keep dogs on leads around livestock,” explained Mrs Harriott.
Thousands of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year and livestock worrying costs the industry an estimated *£1.4m per year (NFU Mutual). But this figure is just the tip of the iceberg as many losses are uninsured and often unaccounted for.
NFU South East spokeswoman Isobel Bretherton said: “Please keep your dog on a lead in the countryside and prevent a tragedy, rather than letting it run freely, as farm animals may be nearby. All dogs have a chase instinct and no matter how well behaved your dog, there is a risk that your pet may chase and attack livestock.
“We’re determined to help reduce this animal welfare problem through greater education and by pushing for tougher penalties for offenders, working with police and other partners.”
In 2017, the NFU worked with Sussex Police to produce a colourful new warning sign that farmers and shepherds have been erecting in fields where sheep are grazing. The signs warn that ‘dogs caught chasing or attacking livestock may be shot by farmers and owners may face prosecution’.
The NFU’s warning comes as the lambing season is beginning, with ewes just weeks or days away from giving birth.
Dogs 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.
Ms Bretherton 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.”
Notes To Editors
* New figures show that the cost of dog attacks on livestock reported to leading rural insurer NFU Mutual rose by nearly 50% across the UK in 2016. The total cost to the industry is estimated at £1.4m.
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. New legislation relating to the control of dogs also applies.
Warning signs have been produced by Sussex Police with support from the NFU and partners - South Downs National Park Authority & Safer West Sussex Partnership.