The NFU is reminding people to keep dogs on a lead in the countryside, now that fields are full of lambs.
NFU South East has produced a short video, featuring Chilterns farmer Isobel Bowden who runs 2,000 sheep and who highlights the devastating impacts of almost weekly dog attacks on her flocks.
Ms Bowden’s pleas to dog owners to use a lead in the countryside are echoed by West Sussex NFU chair Caroline Harriott. Mrs Harriott, a beef and sheep farmer from Lyminster, near Littlehampton, has bitter experience of dog attacks.
She says: “As a general rule, we’re appealing to dog walkers to put pets on a lead in the countryside as farm animals may be around the corner. All dogs have a chase instinct and owners should avoid letting their dog run freely as farmers are legally allowed to shoot any dog that is chasing or harming livestock. Female sheep (ewes) and lambs are particularly vulnerable at this time of year and can suffer terrible injuries or even die of shock when chased or attacked by dogs.”
Mrs Harriott adds: “Only last weekend, another West Sussex farmer suffered a third dog attack on his sheep within two months. He lost a ewe, resulting in two orphan lambs, and a further lamb was fatally injured on land near Steyning.”
Dog attacks cost the farming industry an estimated £1.6m per year*(insurer NFU Mutual, 2018), though many losses are uninsured and unaccounted for in these figures.
NFU South East’s video reminds dog owners that it is an offence to let a dog chase or attack farm animals. 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.