The National Sheep Association (NSA) and the RSPCA have united to highlight the potential devastation to farmers and their livestock by attacks from dogs ahead of Easter and longer daylight hours.
It comes as UK sheep farmers have suffered an increase in sheep worrying attacks by dogs in the past year due to dog ownership increasing and an influx of walkers in the countryside, according to NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.
Incidents of dogs chasing and attacking livestock have hit headlines on a weekly basis, with the latest data from NFU Mutual revealing the cost of dog attacks on farm animals rose to £1.3m in 2020, an increase of more than 10 per cent.
A 2019 DogKind report by the RSPCA also found 24 per cent of owners’ dogs had previously chased livestock, wildlife and other animals.
Sam Gaines, dog welfare specialist at the RSPCA, said: “Sadly our inspectors have seen the tragic consequences of livestock worrying and know all too well the devastating impact this has on farmers and their animals.
“It has always been a focus for us, especially at this time of year, to hit home the message to dog owners that no matter their dog’s breed, how obedient they are or how strong they think their recall is, the only safe option is to keep their pets on the lead whenever they are around livestock.
“Even the act of a dog simply chasing a sheep for a few moments can have a devastating impact. Spring can be a particularly difficult time, with heavily pregnant ewes aborting due to stress and young lambs getting separated from their mothers if the flock is disturbed.”
Ms Gaines warned that there will be lots of dogs this year that were not socialised with other animals as puppies due to lockdown.
“Owners need to understand that they may show a lot of interest and this can be problematic even if the dog does not chase," Ms Gaines said.
"If they are at all worried about their dog’s behaviour they can visit the RSPCA website to find a suitable behaviour expert to help.”
Mr Stocker added dog owners must be responsible for their pet.
“Please keep your dog on a lead whenever there is a chance sheep could be nearby and avoid walking closely to them if at all possible,” Mr Stocker said.
“You may not consider your dog capable of causing suffering by barking, chasing and attacking sheep, but it is an instinctive response.”
Farmers Guardian has 1,000s of livestock worrying signs which you can nail to gateposts or fenceposts near footpaths to highlight the problem to walkers.
If you would like some of these signs, please send a stamped, self-addressed A4 envelope to
FG Take the Lead, Farmers Guardian,
Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park,
You will need at least three First Class or Second Class stamps on to cover postage costs.
We will be able send up to 25 signs.