25 February 2020

It is a sad fact that reports of dogs worrying and injuring sheep are becoming more and more frequent. It is claimed that approximately 15,000 sheep are killed each year by pet dogs being let off the lead in or around sheep.

It is a misconception of many dog owners that injury has not occurred as their dog has only chased the sheep and has not caused visual injury. Injury need not be visible. Worrying of sheep can lead to death by exhaustion and in-lamb ewes can also abort. Dogs owners need to be educated as to the consequences of letting their dogs off the lead in or around sheep.

At this time of year many ewes on farms are either lambing or are in lamb making them easy targets for worrying and injury. It is important for farmers, landowners and owners to know what they should do if they are confronted by this distressing situation.

What should you do?

  • Stop the attack. If you are not able to do so, record the incident on your mobile phone
  • If possible, catch the perpetrators. If you cannot catch the dog(s) make a note of what they looked like, whether they wore a collar, etc. Note the direction they left the field.
  • If the dog owner is present make a note of their details and that of any witnesses.
  • Take photographs / videos of damage to fences, sheep or dead sheep and pass on to the police.
  • Provide evidence of abortion, shock or death from being chased.
  • Keep a note of any vet bills.
  • Note the amount of time it is taking (time is money) for you to sort the issue out.
  • Disposal of carcass costs.
  • Make a note of how you feel emotionally either on paper or record it on your phone (this is evidence too if it is having a detrimental effect on the quality of your life)

Report the incident to the police – don’t take the law into your own hands or you could find yourself on the wrong side of the fence.

Prevention is better than Cure

The best way to avoid the potential risk from dogs trespassing on your land is to try and prevent it from happening. Farmers, landowners and owners should consider taking the following steps to prevent an incident from occurring.

  • If your land is close to a public right of way, ensure that you have adequate signage telling owners to keep their dogs on leads whilst passing through / over your land. It is worth noting that having signage in place warning of sheep will avoid the dog owner from saying ‘the sheep were not normally in the field and therefore this was exceptional circumstances that the owner of the dog was not aware’
  • Ensure that your boundary fences are adequate to deter accidental trespassing.
  • If possible, keep in-lamb or newly lambed ewes away from a public right of way. Likewise, consider placing creep / hay feeders away from public footpaths.