NFU Cymru is calling for Government action as sheep worrying and potential health problems resulting from dog faeces continue to increase. This follows a number of reported incidents and a recently released survey by the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment in England (MENE), which has added fuel to the fire as farmers in Wales ponder the report’s implications, according to Mr Bernard Llewellyn, Chair of NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board.
Mr Llewellyn said a key finding of the MENE survey was of particular concern and equally applicable to Wales - over two thirds of people visited farmlands because they were taking their dogs for walks. "We have no problem with responsible dog owners who keep to the paths, have their dog on a lead and take dog faeces away with them. Sadly this is not always the case and NFU members are reporting more problems through sheep worrying and faeces.
"It is Government policy to encourage people to visit the countryside. It is also their clear responsibility to have working legislation in place to deal effectively with persistent perpetrators calling themselves dog owners. Our farmland is our factory floor, largely in private hands and the nation’s food basket, not an exercise area for dogs.
"We have already raised our concerns with the Environment and Sustainable Development Minister John Griffiths at a recent National Access Forum meeting. We now look to Welsh Government for action on the matter," Mr Llewellyn added.
The main risk to health through contact with dog faeces is from the larvae of Toxocara Canis, a roundworm that lives harmlessly in dogs but presents a danger to humans, especially small children. Accidental ingestion can lead to high fever and can result in blindness.
NFU Cymru recently received reports of sheep worrying and deaths of pregnant ewes as a result of dog attacks as the lambing season gets under way in the Llanrwst area.
Local NFU Cymru Group Secretary Gareth Williams said, "We need the cooperation of the public to help to eliminate sheep worrying, which has become a perennial issue. While we understand dog owners need to exercise their pets and enjoy walking in the countryside, they should understand the need to keep dogs on leads when around farm animals. It should be common sense. Part of the problem is that dogs are now banned from many beaches where people traditionally used to take them to exercise. While there is an obvious financial loss for farmers, such attacks on sheep by dogs cause senseless suffering and death to the animals, huge distress and the aftermath can be terrible to witness."
Mr Williams called on walkers and responsible dog owners to report any transgressors.