#LeadOn - ‘A full year’s hard work by farmers and shepherds can simply be undone in a matter of minutes’

The National Sheep Association is pleading with dog owners to take responsibility, after a recent survey found that less than five per cent of farmers are informed of sheep worrying attacks by the owner of the pet involved.
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Shockingly, almost 60 per cent of survey respondents found evidence of an attack having taken place, rather than being alerted by the owner or another witness.

This suggests animals are often likely to be left suffering and injured for a period of time, causing extreme distress to the sheep and also the farmer on discovering the upsetting scenes.

NSA is, therefore, calling on dog owners to take responsibility for the attacks, should their dog be involved in chasing and/or attacking sheep.

The survey results have been shared as NSA launches its week-long sheep worrying by dogs campaign for 2022, aiming to increase awareness of the issue amongst the general dog owning public.

As the government’s new draft ‘Kept Animals Bill’ is proposing greater powers for police to trace and gain access to dogs involved in attacks, this could create an improved situation for those involved.

NSA Chief Executive, Phil Stocker, stated: “It may feel daunting as a dog owner to come forward to a farmer to admit responsibility, but NSA believes that farmers would rather be informed by the dog owners themselves rather than finding injured, or even worse, dead sheep in their fields.

Sheep worrying by dogs is a crime, but openness from the dog owner can mean a more amicable resolution can hopefully be achieved, and it is better than having to explain a failure to report if the dog is able to be traced.

“Often dog owners simply do not realise their pet is capable of doing so much damage, and while we appreciate this crime is not one that any animal lover would set out to commit, taking responsibility is crucial and could help reduce cases for the future.”

The sheep worrying by dogs survey, completed by sheep farmers across the UK and co-ordinated by NSA, is run annually to gain an up-to-date insight on the issue of sheep worrying by dogs’ continued severity and impact on the UK sheep industry.

In line with previous years’ survey results, respondents once again reported an increase in the incidence of attacks.

Seventy-six per cent believed cases had increased over the past three years, with many identifying the increase in dog ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic as a perceived cause of the rise of cases.

NSA has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue of sheep worrying by dogs, encouraging sheep farmers to ensure they report each case to their local police force, and it appears this message is working.

Eighty-one per cent of survey respondents said they now report some, most, or all of the attacks they experience.

This increased reporting could be driving an improved response from rural police forces, with survey contributors rating police response to reports as 6/10, this figure increasing significantly from ratings of 4/10 in 2021 and 3/10 in 2020.

Losses incurred from dog attacks can be a substantial burden on sheep farmers, with the survey results revealing losses of an average of £1,232 per farmer per year yet, despite this and the increase in reporting of cases of sheep worrying, many farmers do not pursue compensation for their losses.

Mr Stocker continued: “The greatest impact felt for many farmers as a result of sheep worrying by dogs is the stress, anger and anxiety that is experienced as a result of attacks and the fear they will happen again.

“A full year’s hard work by farmers and shepherds can simply be undone in a matter of minutes.

“Of course, the financial impact must not be ignored though.

“At this time of spiralling costs in all areas, continued losses due to sheep worrying are not acceptable, and could easily be prevented by dog owners simply taking responsibility and keeping their dogs on a lead when walking nearby sheep.”

The sheep farming charity hopes the alarming survey results will help demonstrate the extent of the issue to the general public.

It is hoped the campaign hashtag #LeadOn will be recognised as encouragement to dog owners to be responsible and act as an example to others by keeping their pets on leads in the presence of livestock.

General information on the topic of sheep worrying by dogs can be found at www.sheepworrying.org.ukIn addition, NSA has also produced a range of graphics for farmers and other supporters to display and share demonstrating support for the NSA campaign.

To receive a copy of these graphics please email [email protected]

A full summary of NSA’s survey results can be found on the NSA website at https://go.nationalsheep.org.uk/surveyresults

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