Findings of a recent survey completed by the National Sheep Association (NSA) have revealed that less than 5% of sheep farmers receive direct contact from the owners of dogs that have been involved in a sheep worrying attack on their livestock.
With almost 60% of survey respondents finding evidence of an attack having taken place rather than being alerted by the owner or another witness of an incident the result suggests animals are often likely to be left suffering and injured for a period of time causing extreme distress to the sheep and also the farmer on discovering the upsetting scenes.
NSA is calling on dog owners to take responsibility for the attacks should their dog be involved in chasing and/or attacking sheep.
As the Government’s new draft Kept Animals Bill is proposing greater powers for police to trace and gain access to dogs involved in attacks this could create an improved situation for those involved.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “It may feel daunting as a dog owner to come forward to a farmer to admit responsibility, but NSA believes that farmers would rather be informed by the dog owners themselves rather than finding injured, or even worse, dead sheep in their fields.
“Sheep worrying by dogs is a crime but openness from the dog owner can mean a more amicable resolution can hopefully be achieved and it is better than having to explain a failure to report if the dog is able to be traced.
“Often dog owners simply do not realise their pet is capable of doing so much damage, and while we appreciate this crime is not one that any animal lover would set out to commit, taking responsibility is crucial and could help reduce cases for the future.”
The sheep worrying by dogs survey completed by sheep farmers across the UK and coordinated by NSA is run annually to gain an up to date insight on the issue of sheep worrying by dogs’ continued severity and impact on the UK sheep industry.
In line with previous years’ survey results respondents once again reported an increase in the incidence of attacks. 76% believed cases had increased over the past three years with many identifying the increase in dog ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic as a perceived cause of the rise of cases.
The survey results have been shared as NSA launches its week-long sheep worrying by dogs campaign for 2022 aiming to increase awareness of the issue amongst the general dog owning public.
NSA hopes the campaign hashtag #LeadOn will be recognised as encouragement to dog owners to be responsible and act as an example to others by keeping their pets on leads in the presence of livestock.