It’s up to dog owners to take the lead on livestock worrying - so here’s some tips to help prevent it...
Meet Lennox. He’s our 15-year-old family dog who we picked up when I was 11.
This is the look he gives me when he wants something - usually whatever I’m eating at the time.
He’s the softest dog I’ve ever met - he doesn’t even bark. He’s pretty obedient too.
But he was brought up on the streets of Peterborough, Monchengladbach, Gloucester - and now lives in Accrington.
He’s a dog who isn’t interested in other dogs - he just wanders on his merry little way.
But I still wouldn’t trust him around livestock - he’s just not used to that.
There’s a chance that if he got loose in a field with sheep he would chase them. And from there it’s only a short step to livestock worrying.
If you can socialise puppies with farm animals before they are three months old, the risk of them going on to worry livestock is massively reduced.
However, the way we live nowadays means many town and country dwellers don’t have access to farms where they can introduce puppies to livestock in controlled conditions.
The result is that like Lennox, many dogs are likely to react to unknown large animals with fear. And a dog’s defence mechanism to fear is aggression.
This lack of socialisation could be one of the reasons why the cost of claims for dog attacks on livestock reported to rural insurer NFU Mutual rose by nearly 50 per cent across the UK in 2016.
Between January and April, when pregnant ewes and lambs are often grazing on low-lying pasture in areas more accessible to walkers, the cost of claims more than doubled.
And we’ve seen similar figures in 2017.
With many families expected to visit the countryside during the summer holidays, NFU Mutual is urging people to keep their dogs on a lead at all times to remove the risk of pets on family walks attacking sheep.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s not just big, aggressive-looking dogs that attack livestock – well-behaved family pets can worry sheep or cattle. And once a dog has attacked livestock, there is a high probability that it will strike again.
As well as causing terrible injuries and suffering to ewes and lambs, worrying has a huge cost to agriculture. For small and hobby farmers in particular, the impact of livestock worrying can be devastating.
While insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock, the stress of worrying can cause ewes to abort their lambs. This leads to a knock-on effect on breeding programmes that can take years to overcome.
The simpler way to prevent your dog worrying sheep – is to always keep it on a lead when there’s a chance livestock could be around.
Never assume you dog’s sweet nature means it won’t attack sheep. It’s simply its genetic heritage.