Sheep sector fears rise in dog attacks this festive season

Despite the winter months, sheep farmers are being warned that the threat of dog attacks still continues
Despite the winter months, sheep farmers are being warned that the threat of dog attacks still continues

Sheep farmers are being reminded to look at the latest guidance on how best to deal with livestock worrying incidents as a rise in dog attacks is anticipated this festive season.

As the end of the year approaches, sheep sector groups are once again looking back on 2021 having experienced an increase in livestock worrying on flocks.

The latest available figures show that the cost of livestock worrying increased by over 10% to £1.3m as the pandemic saw a surge in people visiting the countryside.

A recent survey by the National Sheep Association (NSA) also showed a continued increase of attacks year-on-year, underlining the significant emotional cost experienced by farmers.

Despite the shorter days and colder temperatures, the group warns that the threat of dog attacks continues, with the festive period often seeing an increase in cases once again.

Because of this, sheep producers are being reminded to update themselves on the latest livestock worrying guidance.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker comments: “The past two years have brought an increase of dog walkers into the countryside as dog ownership has soared.

"This has led to many sheep farmers across the UK reporting an increase in sheep worrying attacks by dogs on their flocks.

"With Christmas and New Year holidays almost upon us, it is likely many people will once again get out and about walking with their pets, placing sheep flocks at risk.

"In the case of an attack happening, NSA hopes its advice available online will be useful to secure the best outcome.”

To help farmers know how best to act should they suffer an attack on their flock, the NSA recently posed a series of questions to PC David Allen of North Wales Police who provided advice.

PC Allen is a member of the Livestock Worrying Roundtable with a number of years of experience of dealing with sheep worrying cases.

Having taken questions submitted by farmers, he was able to offer advice on the issue ranging from what producers are legally able to do if a dog is caught in the act of sheep worrying to how to best trace owners of straying dogs.

Farmers are also reminded of the downloadable warning signs that NSA has available on its website that can be used to inform walkers to keep their pets on a lead near sheep.

In addition to the traditional warning signs, the organisation is offering a downloadable sign designed by recent competition winner Max, aged nine, from Kent.

Max designed his winning sign in a recent NSA children’s competition, and it is hoped the sign could act as an effective method of communication to the public.

NSA communications officer Katie James said: “It is hard to ignore a plea from a child and that was the thinking behind our recent competition.

"We believe it could catch the public’s eye and shows them, through the eyes of children, the devastation that could take place if they fail to keep their dogs under control and on a lead when near livestock.”