Farmers fear rising dog attacks this Easter as incidents surge

The public have been told to be 'extra vigilant', especially during the Easter holidays
The public have been told to be 'extra vigilant', especially during the Easter holidays

Livestock worth £2.4m were severely injured or killed by dogs last year, up nearly 30% compared to 2022, and farmers are fearing more attacks this Easter.

In England, the south west was the worst-hit region by cost, with dog attacks costing around £359,000, followed by the Midlands, at £331,000.

The figures have been released today by NFU Mutual, which has called the public to be 'extra vigilant' as the Easter holidays loom.

This year’s lambing season is well underway, and farmers are worried that an influx of out-of-control dogs this Easter could cause carnage to new-born lambs out in the fields.

NFU Mutual's recent survey of over 1,100 dog owners found more people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022, 68% and 64% respectively*.

Worryingly, less than half (49%) said their pet always comes back when called.

Almost 8% admitted their dog chases livestock but 46% believed their dog was not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals.

It comes as the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill is making its way through parliament, aimed at improving powers available to police in dealing with dog attacks on livestock.

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said: “People must remember these idyllic rural destinations are working environments, key to farmers’ livelihoods and home to millions of sheep and new-born lambs.

“All dogs are capable of disturbing, chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“That’s why we are urging everyone exercising their dogs in the countryside to keep them on a lead wherever livestock may be nearby but to let go if chased by cattle.”

Guidance for the public this Easter

NFU Mutual has released tips for dog owners who may visit the countryside this Easter:

• Keep dogs on a lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept, but let go of the lead if chased by cattle

• Be aware that all dogs, regardless of size, breed, and temperament, can cause the distress, injury and death of farm animals

• Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers

• Never let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby