Posted: Fri 10th Feb 2023

Distracted dog owners put sheep at risk of fatal injuries, study finds

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Feb 10th, 2023

A new study conducted by NFU Mutual has revealed that distracted dog owners who believe their pets would never attack farm animals are putting sheep at risk of horrific and fatal injuries.

The latest survey of over 1,100 dog owners found that despite 64% of them admitting their dogs chase animals, almost half (46%) believe their pets are not capable of injuring or killing livestock.

Many dog owners are unaware that even if their pets don’t make contact with a sheep, the distress and exhaustion caused by being chased can trigger a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry. Young lambs can also become separated from their mothers.

Nearly two thirds of dog owners (64%) say they let their pets roam off-lead in the countryside. However, almost four in ten (39%) admit that their dogs do not always come back when called.

The harsh reality of some dog owners’ failure to control their pets is reflected in the latest figures based on claims data from NFU Mutual, which estimates that dog attacks on UK farm animals cost £1.8m in 2022.

The study highlights the importance of responsible pet ownership and the need for dog owners to be more aware of the consequences of their actions.

Just this week there were reports that a pregnant sheep was attacked by a dog at Tinkersdale, between Hawarden and Dobshill.

Sally Basnett said in a post on social media: “We are nursing a ewe, who is in lamb, who has clearly been mauled by a dog, she has been cornered and been stuck. She is in pain and shock, unfortunately, the outcome doesn’t look good for her or her lambs.”

“Please respect farmers’ land and livestock!”

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “It’s clear that a significant number of dog owners are blinded by their love for their pets and believe that they would never chase, attack or kill livestock.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers that dog walkers are becoming more distracted, often on their mobile phones with their pets out of sight and are seemingly unaware of the carnage their dog could cause.

“The Covid-19 pandemic saw a boom in dog ownership as many people purchased puppies for the first time, yet these may not have been trained properly or be familiar with farm animals.

“It is concerning that these now fully-grown dogs will be visiting farmland as we get into spring at a time when pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“Farmers near cities, towns and tourist areas are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific suffering to sheep and can traumatise their families as they deal with the aftermath.

“That is why we are calling for dog owners to be responsible and accept their pets, however friendly, are capable of chasing and attacking farm animals and should be kept on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock.”

With many dog owners planning to visit the countryside as the weather improves and at a time when sheep are at their most vulnerable, NFU Mutual is calling for them to:

  • 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 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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