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Farmer urges public to stand united against sheep worrying

A recent Farmers Guardian investigation has revealed sheep worrying shows no sign of letting up. Gordon Wyeth urges the public to help farmers fight the continuing battle.

Alice   Singleton

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Alice   Singleton
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The attack on Gordon Wyeth's sheep is said to be the 'worst in living memory'
The attack on Gordon Wyeth's sheep is said to be the 'worst in living memory'

A Sussex farmer at the centre of the worst sheep attack in history has urged the public to get behind the farming community and throw a spotlight on the devastation of dog attacks.

 

Gordon Wyeth lost 116 New Zealand Romney sheep this week, in what was the fourth attack to tear through his livestock in as many months.

 

But as investigations by Farmers Guardian have found, these attacks show no signs of slowing down, as for the third year running the number of dog attacks on livestock has surpassed 1,000.

 

Speaking to Farmers Guardian, Mr Wyeth said: "We cannot battle with dog walkers but we need to work with the general public and ask them to work with us.

 

"What we need to do is ask members of the public to help us farmers, and if they see a dog loose in a field, or walking without a lead, take a picture or video on your phone and send it to the police.

 

"It is only the minority of people who choose not to care about livestock, but we need to educate everyone if any change is to be made."

 

Shock

 

Sussex police are investigating the attack which they believe was caused by a dog herding the sheep into a tight group.

 

My Wyeth said the field the sheep were settling on sloped into a narrow passageway, leading them to die from shock or from being crushed in the flock.

Farmers helping farmers

Mr Wyeth thanked the farming community for their generosity after a JustGiving page was created to help the family deal with the financial loss.

 

Set up by a member of the farming community, in less than 24-hours, the page has overtaken its target of £1,000.

 

 


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'Worst ever' sheep worrying incident as 116 sheep killed in Sussex 'Worst ever' sheep worrying incident as 116 sheep killed in Sussex

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Last year, Olivia Midgley spoke to Devon farmer, Martin Pearse about the horrific attack on his pedigree Zwartble sheep. He agreed the current laws were ‘inadequate’ and ‘must be extended’.

 

 

The law

Along with many farmers throughout the UK, Mr Wyeth said 'the law is not strong enough'.

 

Currently the law states a dog owner found guilty of allowing their dog to worry livestock may face a fine of up to £1,000.

 

Robert James of Thrings Solicitors explained how the law protects farmers from these attacks:

 

How does the law protect farmers?

 

The Animals Act 1971 says that where a dog injures livestock the owner is strictly liable.

 

To escape liability, the burden of proof is on the owner of the dog to show that he should not be liable because the farmer/victim is wholly at fault or that he has voluntarily accepted the risk in some way.

 

How easy is it for farmers to prosecute owners whose dogs attack livestock?

 

The law is very much in favour of the farmer.

 

However, there have been incidents involving farm animals such as alpacas which are not covered under the Act as ‘livestock’.

 

However, The Animals Act still affords statutory cause of action pursuant to other sections albeit there is a higher hurdle to satisfy first.

 

Where do I stand if a shoot a dog which is worrying my livestock?

 

Technically if a farmer takes matters into his own hands and shoots/injures the dog he is (technically) potentially committing a criminal offence – depending on the facts.

 

You should try to avoid this if possible.

 

However, Section 9 of the Animal Act sets out legal justifications which operate as a defence to any civil claim.

 

Five top tips on preventing and dealing with livestock

Five top tips on preventing and dealing with livestock

Robert James of Thrings Solicitors gives his top tips to farmers:

  • When working out how damages are calculated, it is much simpler if the farmer has a paper trail, for example, the livestock’s pedigree, breeding programme and value
  • Put signage up around your farm. Warn owners dogs worrying livestock is a criminal offence and dogs could be shot. This could help the farmers’ chances if the case is taken to court
  • Write to owners of neighbouring aggressive dogs and warn them about your rights as livestock owners and the potential damage a loose dog can cause. Ensure they take all the necessary steps to ensure their dogs are kept under control
  • Try to keep dogs out – for example, use good fencing to stop stray dogs getting into a field and signs which say ‘private property’. If it is a public footpath, use plenty of signs saying ‘keep dogs on a lead’
  • The law is slanted in favour of the farmer. However, civil proceedings can be time-consuming and costly. I am representing a client whose stock was attacked twice in 2013 and the case is still ongoing

 

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