Derbyshire Police Rural Crime Team is reminding those who walk their dogs near farmers’ fields to keep their dogs under control at all times following a spate of livestock incidents. Livestock worrying is increasingly common, especially in the summer months, as dog owners look to take their pets further afield.
Livestock worrying refers to when a dog chases livestock in a way that may cause injury or suffering, and loss or abortion in female livestock. This can have a huge financial impact on farmers in the area, with NFU Mutual estimating that in 2020 the cost of dog attacks on farm animals across the UK rose by over £120,000 to £1.3 million.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “The suffering to animals and the anxiety for farmers could be easily prevented if people kept their dogs on a lead when out in the countryside. There’s a lack of awareness among dog owners about what their pets are capable of and our research found only 40% accepted their dog could injure or harm livestock.
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“Even if a dog doesn’t make physical contact, the distress of the chase can also cause sheep to die, miscarry and separate lambs from their mothers. Farm animals are also being chased into danger – drowning in rivers, falling from cliffs and getting their necks trapped in fencing.”
Derbyshire Police’s Rural Crime Team have also been raising awareness regarding livestock worrying, following an attack by a dog which sadly killed two lambs, and injured three others. A spokesperson from the team said: “Another day, another livestock incident. If you follow any other Rural Crime Teams on social media, you will see that this is a national problem and one that is becoming more and more frequent.
“Today’s incident occurred in the south of the county and unusually the police were contacted by the dog owner informing us that their dog was worrying livestock and they could not get it back under control. By the time the dog had been brought back under control it had killed two lambs and injured three others, that number may yet rise once the flock has been checked.
“Owning a dog comes with responsibility, that responsibility extends to making sure your dog does not chase or injure livestock. To those who are thinking “my dog wouldn’t do that” “my dog is properly trained”, in our experience all of those we deal with don’t believe their dog will ever chase or attack livestock and that is exactly the reason why the dog is not under proper control.
“There are several outcomes when it comes to dogs worrying livestock; perhaps the most thought-provoking for owners should be the outcome that the landowner shoots the dog, which they are entitled to do in law, to protect their stock. The owner can then still face a day in court and a hefty bill.
“To dog owners, it is simple. your dog your responsibility, keep it on a lead around livestock or where you believe livestock may be present. To those who may witness livestock worrying, please report it and if possible, gather any evidence you can, photographs are particularly useful but please only take photographs if it is safe to do so.”
The RSPCA also said: “If your dog worries livestock you may end up being sued for compensation and, in some circumstances, farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs if they are endangering their sheep.”
A bill to combat livestock worrying and give farmers increased rights over the protection of their animals is currently progressing through the House of Commons. First raised by Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Mon (Anglesey), the bill proposes that dogs may be seized, or destroyed, following a livestock worrying incident, unless the owner has paid any outstanding expenses relating to the incident.