Dog walkers asked to #takethelead this Easter

The NFU is urging dog walkers to #takethelead and use a lead near livestock when in the countryside over Easter.

Thousands of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year and livestock worrying costs the industry an estimated £1.6m*(NFU Mutual). 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 (female sheep) grazing with their newborn lambs and ewes that are due to give birth. Earlier this month, Sussex farmers took to the beauty spots of the South Downs to raise awareness among dog owners of the need to keep dogs on a lead near livestock, supported by the South Downs National Park Authority with its #takethelead campaign.IOW NFU JamesOsman Matt Legge#takethelead_52890

NFU Adviser James Osman says:  “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 adds: “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 if 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.

Matt Legge new lamb_52852

Isle of Wight NFU chairman Matt Legge, a commercial sheep farmer and pedigree sheep breeder, explains how sheep farming is a labour of love. He says: “It takes two years of care and attention for me to raise a sheep - from lamb to breeding ewe (female), 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.”

Notes To Editors

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual dealt with record claims in 2017 – the cost of dog attacks on livestock reported to NFU Mutual rose by 67 per cent across the UK in the past two years. The total cost to the industry in 2017 is estimated at £1.6m.

Livestock farmers around the South East are available for interview, including IoW NFU chair Matt Legge and NFU South East livestock board chair Hugh Broom.

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Last edited on: 27:03:2018

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