Dog attacks on livestock – the true cost

02 November 2023

An image of a boxer-labrador cross dog being walked on a lead through a field of sheep

NFU Mutual data shows that the claims costs of dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8 million in 2022. See how the NFU is working to tackle this growing issue.

In England, the Midlands was the worst-hit region with dog attacks on livestock totalling an estimated £313,000, followed by the South West at 273,000.

NFU Mutual is calling on all dog owners to keep them on the lead around livestock and for the public to report all attacks and sightings of loose dogs to the police or farmers.

It has also asked people living in properties that back onto grazing fields not to leave their dogs unsupervised, as a significant proportion of attacks are by pets that escape.

“Livestock worrying and dog attacks causes stress and aguish for farmers seeing their animals suffering, in addition to the significant financial impact felt.”

NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay

Key stats at a glance:

  • 64% admit their dogs chase animals
  • Almost half (46%) believe that their dog was not capable of injuring or killing livestock
  • Nearly two thirds of owners let their dog roam off-lead in the countryside
  • 39% admit their pets do not always come back when called

Dogs off leads

A survey of more than 1,100 dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual found that dog walkers are becoming more distracted, with their pets out of sight, and are therefore unaware of the damage that could be inflicted.

Many remain unaware that even if their dog doesn’t come into contact with a sheep, the distress caused by the chase can trigger a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry.

NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay described the statistics as “shocking to see”, and emphasised the “stress and anguish for farmers seeing their animals suffering, in addition to the significant financial impact felt”.

Enjoying the countryside responsibly

“We want people to enjoy the countryside and welcome members of the public being able to see where their food is produced, but dog owners must do this responsibly,” Richard continued.

“No matter how in control dog owners think they are, they should always remain alert, and dogs should always be on a lead around livestock.

“If anyone sees an incident where they believe a livestock worrying incident has taken place, I encourage them to report it to the farmer and police.”

NFU campaigning

We are continuing to campaign for tougher deterrents and clear rules for dog owners when walking amongst livestock.

We're asking you to join the thousands of people who've already added their names to our calls for the government to urgently strengthen the law to protect livestock from dog attacks.

Add your name now

During 2021 we saw the issue raised in Parliament with a 10 Minute Rule Bill promoted by Virginia Crosbie MP and amendments to the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill that would give more power to the police to tackle livestock worrying incidents.

In 2023, the Government announced that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would no longer be progressing. However, they assured that measures in the Bill will be taken forward individually during the remainder of the Parliament. Including stating that they "look forward to progressing delivery of...the new measures to tackle livestock worrying."

The NFU will continue to work closely with government to ensure these measures are delivered. 

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