Banburyshire dog owners warned to keep pets under strict control amid concerns about livestock worrying

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Banburyshire dog owners are being asked to keep their pets on a lead in the countryside amid concerns over livestock worrying.

With spring here and dog owners heading out for countryside walks, The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the cost of dog attacks on livestock is up 50 per cent since the pandemic.

Pregnant ewes and new-born lambs are at peak risk from out-of-control dogs this Easter, the experts say.

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Last year the NFU Mutual insurer found that last year, UK farm animals worth an estimated £1.8 million were severely injured or killed by dogs compared to £1.2 million in pre-pandemic 2019.

Dog owners are urged to keep their dogs on a lead in the countryside to protect livestockDog owners are urged to keep their dogs on a lead in the countryside to protect livestock
Dog owners are urged to keep their dogs on a lead in the countryside to protect livestock

NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist Hannah Binns said: “The Easter holidays see many people exploring the beautiful countryside but they must remember these idyllic rural destinations are key to farmers’ livelihoods and are home to thousands of sheep and new-born lambs.

“This year’s lambing season is underway across the region, so it is crucial all dog owners act responsibly by keeping their dog on a lead in areas where livestock are nearby, especially near vulnerable sheep and lambs.

“The Covid-19 pandemic saw many people owning dogs for the first time, but tragically this has been followed by a sharp increase in the cost of livestock attacks.

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“It is hard for people to imagine their friendly family pet could chase, injure or kill another animal - but all dogs are capable of this, regardless of breed or size.

“Even dogs chasing sheep can have serious consequences. We’ve heard reports from farmers where sheep and lambs have drowned, suffocated, been run over or chased off cliff edges because of out-of-control dogs.

“Even if a dog does not make contact with a sheep, the distress and exhaustion from being chased can cause a pregnant ewe to miscarry or die. It can also separate young lambs from their mothers, which can lead them to become orphaned.

“If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it, either to the police or a local farmer, so that the injured animals are not left suffering.”

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In a survey of over 1,100 dog owners, NFU found that despite 64 per cent of owners admitting their dogs chase animals, almost half (46 per cent) believe their dog was not capable of injuring or killing livestock.

Nearly two thirds of owners (64 per cent) said they let their dog roam off-lead in the countryside. However, almost four in ten (39 per cent) admited their pets do not always come back when called.

Just last week, Chilterns farmer Isobel Connell discovered three dead ewes that had been chased to exhaustion overnight by escaped unsupervised dogs.

The post mortem revealed their lungs were frothing from over exertion where they had been chased until they collapsed and died, leaving behind six orphan lambs.

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"It was heart-breaking to hear the orphaned lambs bleating next to their dead mothers,” Mrs Connell said.

  • Even small dogs 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.
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