Operation Recall: New initiative aims to tackle livestock worrying

Cheshire Police and charities partnered on an awareness raising campaign aimed at preventing livestock worrying incidents
Cheshire Police and charities partnered on an awareness raising campaign aimed at preventing livestock worrying incidents

A new initiative aimed at educating the public on the impact of livestock worrying could be rolled out across the UK following a successful trial in Cheshire.

Operation Recall - which aims to prevent future incidents of dog attacks on livestock - was launched by Cheshire Police, the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation.

The scheme began as a local initiative in Cheshire, but could now be rolled out to other police forces nationally with the support of the newly established National Rural Crime Unit.

An educational video has been provided to police forces across the country to use as part of restorative justice after a dog attack has occurred.

Research from the NFU suggests that incidents of dog attacks are increasing, with them causing a "devastating effect" for animal welfare and farmers' livelihoods.

The union reports that the cost of livestock worrying to farmers has increased by 50% between 2019 and 2022 as the boom of puppies purchased during the pandemic came of age.

Geoff Edmond, national wildlife coordinator at the RSPCA, said even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

“Being chased by a dog causes the animals stress and anxiety, this can lead to pregnancy loss in livestock, and in some extreme cases, severe attacks can happen which have a devastating effect on the livestock, resulting in injury and even death.

"This also has an adverse impact on the farmers themselves, both in terms of their livelihood and the emotional toll of seeing their animals suffer."

He added: “Livestock worrying is a welfare issue for dogs too who could become injured during the incident themselves or could even be shot by the farmer.

"It is lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect their livestock - which no one wants to happen. Owners could also be prosecuted by police if their dog is caught worrying livestock."

The police and RSPCA’s main advice for dog owners is to always keep their animals on a lead when near or around livestock.

PC Jim Clark, of Cheshire Police, said his "heart sinks" when an incident of livestock worrying or an attack is reported.

"I instantly know that this will have an effect on the livestock, the farmer, the offender, and sadly the dog involved too.

"Working in partnership with organisations such as the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation is brilliant, as we all bring a unique expertise to the project.”

Hannah Doyle, from Sussex, had assumed that livestock were safe behind fences when she walked her dog in the local countryside.

She said: “One day my dog went out with a new dog walker and for some reason they let him off the lead. He squeezed under a gate and started chasing some sheep.

“I was so relieved when the farmer reported that all the sheep were okay. The thought that an animal might have been hurt or killed – or my dog shot – was awful.

"I think it was a valuable lesson for both of us. Now I always keep him on lead even when livestock look like they’re safely fenced in, just in case.”