2015-04-07  facebooktwitterrss

Protect Newborn Lambs by Keeping Your Dog on a Lead

Dogs chasing and attacking sheep is causing a major animal welfare problem on UK sheep farms, says the National Sheep Association, and no more so than at this time of year when ewes are heavily pregnant or have young lambs at foot.

With increasing numbers of sheep worrying incidents being reported, NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker is calling for dog owners to be extra vigilant during the lambing season, and to keep their pets on a lead around livestock.

Lambs attacked by a dog

“Despite previous campaigns, the number of reported dog attacks on ewes and lambs continues to rise,” says Mr Stocker. “Our members have told us of some really terrible attacks on their flocks that could be prevented simply by dogs being kept on leads around sheep.”

Along with the obvious, horrific injuries dogs can cause when they bite sheep, there are additional risks that being chased by a dog can cause. Stress caused by chasing can result in pregnant ewes aborting their lambs and lambing problems when they come to give birth. Particularly important at this time of year, is when chasing and attacks by dogs break the essential bond between a newborn lamb and its mother.

Mr Stocker explains, “When lambs are born they create a life-giving bond with their mother. They can identify her within a field full of sheep and know where to get the milk upon which they depend for the first weeks of life. If a group of sheep containing very young lambs is chased by a dog, the disruption and stress breaks that bond and can lead to lambs being abandoned, threatening the life of that lamb and causing a great deal of anxiety to the ewe and her young.”

Allowing your dog to worry livestock is a criminal offence and can lead to prosecution and expensive legal fees. Attacks can also result in dogs being destroyed.

Previous figures have shown a steady rise in reported attacks and a recent survey carried out by NSA indicated that at least half occurred in private, in an enclosed field with no footpath. This suggests the dogs were either unsupervised or not kept under close control.

Mr Stocker adds: “It’s possible that many dog owners don’t believe their docile pet is capable of causing such damage to livestock. People trust their dogs but it’s too late once the animal has chased or attacked sheep.
“We believe the only way to reduce these figures is through education and the enforcement of the regulations. This means encouraging farmers to display signs on footpaths on their land and using the full strength of the law to prosecute owners who dogs worry sheep.

“While we don’t want to discourage dog walkers from enjoying the countryside, it’s imperative that they make sure their pets are under control. If they chase or attack livestock, the results can be devastating for the farmer and the dog owner.”


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