Reports of dog attacks on sheep, seem to be a common occurrence in the media. These dog attacks can result in death of the ewe and lambs being carried or serious injury can be prevented by dog owners being responsible in the countryside. Worrying of sheep has serious implications to animal welfare, the farmers finances, but also results in added emotional stress of farmers who find dead or injured stock during what is an already stressful period in the farming calendar.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) reported 76% of farmers surveyed in their 2022 annual survey, had reported an increase in dog attacks.
To assist in reducing the problem, The Dogs (protection of Livestock (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021, came into force in November 2021. Where owners of dogs worrying livestock can be fined up to £40,000 or sent to prison for 12 months. As land managers and livestock farmers, there are limited options to help reduce livestock worrying, however some options may be as follows.
- Check fencing along areas where people walk dogs and ensure there are no holes or gaps.
- Identify fields surrounding public walkways, could they be used for cutting silage or growing forage crops instead of lambing sheep?
- Signage is another preventative tool for sheep farmers. Warning people that there are sheep and young lambs in fields may seem obvious, but increasing awareness is important. Especially as we, approach lighter nights and Easter when many people are likely to be taking short breaks and walks in the countryside.
The NSA have a number of signs, which can be downloaded free from their website for farmers to display on footpaths and gates.
It is important that if farmers do find a dog worrying sheep, it be reported to the police.
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