The group said a local sheep farmer had been making a number of false claims about flock deaths and was using images from Farmers Guardian’s Take The Lead campaign.
A group of walkers desperate to fight a public order to prevent irresponsible dog owners allowing their pets off a lead has accused the local council and its farmers of lying about dog attacks.
The Guardians of the Tye said Tim Armour, who farms in Telscombe Village, East Sussex and looks after Telscombe Town Council’s community flock, had been making a number of false claims about flock deaths ‘which have never been witnessed by any of the hundreds of walkers who use the Tye daily or been recorded or reported’.
But Mr Armour told Farmers Guardian he had lost about 30 sheep over the last two years and the accusations from the group had ‘become personal’.
Telscombe Town Council has since imposed a public space protection order (PSPO) to control dog walking and alleviate sheep attacks, a move which has been in talks since late last year.
The PSPO is still in its consultation stage but the move could see a legislation on dog walkers to keep their dogs on a lead when on land in question.
The walking group said its residents were ‘strongly opposed’ to the order and instead suggested Mr Armour had been circulating images from Farmers Guardian’s Take The Lead campaign.
“The group is blaming me,” said Mr Armour, who has grazing rights for 252 sheep every day of the year.
“They have a closed Facebook group and they have put some pretty scurrilous posts on there, so bad we have now contacted the police.
“We have got no objection to anybody walking a dog but if they go into a field or open space with agricultural stock in, they must put their dogs on a lead.
“And these people do not think they should.”
Sussex Police lead for wildlife, heritage and environmental crime Tom Carter said the idea behind the PSPO was to target irresponsible owners and provide a balance that catered for both the land as a community space but also the requirements of Mr Armour in grazing the land.
He said while the number of attacks were not hugely significant, it was enough to disrupt his farming business.
Mr Carter said: “The PSPO would allow both to happen. It was to protect the sheep but also allow the land to continue to be used as a leisure spot.
“It was recognised that dog owners are a big part of the community but there does not have to be this level of community tension.”
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The District Council, which has implemented the PSPO, said it would welcome all views on the proposals, including alternative proposals.