Calls to keep dogs under control after rise in attacks on sheep in Kent

30 January 2024

Farmer John Dinnis standing in a field with some sheep

Dog owners are being urged to keep control of their pets in the Kent countryside following a rise in attacks on sheep.

As the lambing season gets under way, the NFU, Kent Police and Kent Trading Standards are working together to urge pet owners to obey the Countryside Code and ensure their dogs are kept under control.

The most recent NFU Mutual data shows that, nationally, the claims costs of dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8m in 2022.

Kent farmers are also reporting a significant rise in incidents. The increase is believed to be, in part, down to a surge in dog ownership during the coronavirus lockdown.

Fourth-generation farmer John Dinnis, who runs a mixed farm near Sevenoaks, has lost more than 20 sheep to dog attacks over the years.

He said: “Sadly the situation has been getting worse. There was a big rise in dog ownership in lockdown and many people don’t understand what can happen in the countryside when they don’t have control of their dogs.

‘It is really awful to see the animals suffer’

“It does have a financial impact on the business but the animal welfare issue is the main concern.

“It is really awful to see the animals suffer in this way and it is upsetting for the pet owners who just didn’t expect their dog was capable of such things.”

Sheep on John Dinnis's farm

Livestock worrying includes barking, chasing, biting and killing. It is a criminal offence and dog owners could be liable for prosecution or a fine.

Under the Animals Act 1971, a dog could be shot if caught in the act by a landowner.

DNA testing to identify dogs

Sergeant Darren Walshaw, from Kent Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “We urge dog owners to keep their pets on leads around livestock.

“As well as the suffering caused to sheep, attacks can lead to huge financial losses for farmers. Officers carry DNA testing kits to swab animals that have been attacked, allowing them to identify the dog responsible.

“The majority of dog owners do take care around livestock but it’s extremely important to follow signs and stick to footpaths. It is also important to check your properties and gardens are secure when you have dogs.”

Kent Trading Standards Operations Manager Samantha Padfield said: “As part of the ongoing work with our Animal Health team, we urge all dog walkers in Kent to keep dogs on a lead and under control when walking in areas where livestock are present.”

The NFU has recently reported how police could be given greater powers to crack down on irresponsible dog owners whose pets attack livestock under proposals being brought forward by former Defra Secretary, Thérèse Coffey.

Read more on NFUonline

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