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From the editor: Surge in dog ownership presents rural challenge

For almost a decade Farmers Guardian has sought to highlight the often shocking toll of dogs attacks on livestock via its Take the Lead campaign.

With tens of thousands of signs sent to farmers across the UK, the campaign has been at the leading edge of calls for tougher penalties to deter people letting their dogs roam free.

 

Recent legislative moves in Scotland which could see people fined up to £40,000 if their dog carries out a livestock attack were welcomed by industry, and this was the latest in a long line of moves by different authorities to provide an effective deterrent to pet owners.

 

But there is no doubt that 10 months of intermittent lockdowns have caused the British people to reignite their love affair with the humble dog.

 

With demand higher for canine companions than even that of Limousin heifers by the name of Poshspice, they have become one of the must-have accessories of the pandemic.

 

And while farmers and rural dog breeders will have benefited from this surge in demand, albeit some will be wondering where their next collie will come from given current prices, it will leave many worried about the impact rising dog numbers will have once lockdown starts to ease.


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As FG reports this week, the sheer scale of insurance claims for attacks on livestock is staggering.

 

The rise in dog ownership also taps into the wider debate over countryside access.

 

Not only are people seeking companionship from their animals at home, but they are looking to get out more and enjoy the countryside.

 

For agriculture, this is a fine balance between reaping the benefits connection to the outdoors undoubtedly provides, such as greater appreciation of farmers and demand for local food, with the potential negatives such as crops being trampled by walkers or fences being cut.

 

With more and more people using the countryside for leisure and escapism, the need for the public to understand that rural areas are working landscapes, not just playgrounds, has never been higher.

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