Sheep farmers invited to participate in dog attacks survey
Sheep farmers are being invited to take part in a survey to assess the serious and devastating issue of sheep worrying by dogs.
The survey, launched aby the National Sheep Association (NSA), comes as many ewes are in the final stages of pregnancy or have young vulnerable lambs at foot leading to increased risk of miscarriage or mis-mothering due to stress from a sheep worrying attack.
It is an offence to allow a dog to worry sheep, which includes attacking or chasing sheep, and incidents by dogs cause significant welfare concerns for sheep and serious upset to sheep farmers whose flocks are affected.
Research conducted by the Countryside Alliance last year found that nearly a quarter of rural crimes were not reported to the Police.
In January 2021, 50 ewes in North Monmouthshire died following a livestock worrying incident and in October, police in the Talgarth area were called to an incident where a ewe had been found with “severe” injuries.
Janet Finch-Saunders, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, has repeatedly called for the founding a National Rural Crime Taskforce for Wales in response to serious dog attacks on livestock.
Recent changes in legislation have been proposed to try and tackle the issue but NSA believes these do not go far enough and fail to offer sufficient deterrents to prevent attacks happening.
The NSA is inviting all sheep farmers, whether they have experienced issues with sheep worrying or not, to contribute to the survey which launched on Friday and is open until 25 March.
Last year’s survey saw a record-breaking response, with an increase of 460% on the 2020 survey. Analysis showed that on average, each respondent experienced seven cases of sheep worrying during the past year resulting in five sheep injured and two sheep killed per attack.
67% of respondents witnessed an increase in attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic which they believe can be attributed to an increase in dog ownership and the general public spending more time walking in the countryside.
Additionally, more than half of all respondents had experienced abuse or intimidation when personally asking dog owners to put their pet on a lead.
The NSA says there is an urgent need for dog owners to be educated to understand that even the most well-trained dog has an instinct to chase and can behave unpredictably around livestock.
Offering guidance to dog owners, the website says: “Sheep fleeing from dogs are often killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape, causing untold damage to fences and field boundaries in the process.
“Dogs chasing ewes and lambs can cause mis-mothering issues, with lambs dying from starvation or hypothermia when they become separated from their mother and fail to find her again.”
NSA Policy and Technical Officer, Sean Riches said: “NSA receives calls from distressed sheep farmers who have experienced attacks on their flocks on a very regular basis.
“As a nation of animal lovers, it is difficult to comprehend how these devastating attacks are allowed to continue. This is a serious welfare issue, where sheep are regularly subjected to threats by dogs who chase and cause physical harm.”
For more information on the issue of sheep worrying by dogs and NSA’s work on this issue please visit www.sheepworrying.org.uk
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