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Survey reveals increase in sheep-worrying attacks by dogs

By Alan Hendry

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NSA has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the sheep-worrying issue among the dog-owning public.
NSA has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the sheep-worrying issue among the dog-owning public.

More than two thirds of sheep farmers responding to a survey reported that they had seen an increase in sheep-worrying attacks by dogs during the past year.

The revelation is part of a "concerning" set of findings released by the National Sheep Association (NSA) from its recent farmers’ survey assessing the incidence and impact of sheep-worrying attacks by dogs across the UK.

On average, each respondent had experienced seven cases of sheep-worrying during the past year, resulting in five sheep injured and two sheep killed per attack.

Estimated financial losses through incidents of sheep-worrying of up to £50,000 were recorded, with an average across all respondents of £1570. However, most respondents received no or very little compensation.

The survey also highlighted the impact on the mental wellbeing of sheep farmers. They reported feelings of anxiety, anger, upset, stress and frustration as a result of sheep-worrying by dogs.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Our own survey results combined with recently reported figures from industry partners show a concerning increase in the number of cases of sheep-worrying by dogs during the past year.

"There is much evidence suggesting this is a result of the various periods of national lockdown that have been experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with dog ownership increasing and the public enjoying more time in the countryside as one of the few outdoor pursuits still able to be enjoyed.

“The issue is receiving more attention from the media but there is still much work to do to continue the education of the dog-owning public to ensure the future safety and welfare of both farmers’ sheep flocks and pet owners’ much-loved dogs, and this needs to come from strengthened countryside use guidelines and stricter legislation.”

Eighty per cent of respondents agreed that the rest of the UK should follow the recent change in Scottish law that sees stricter enforcement including fines of up to £40,000 and/or 12 months' imprisonment acting as a stronger deterrent to dog owners responsible for allowing attacks to happen.

A full summary of survey results can be found on the NSA website.

The survey results were released as NSA launched its two-week 2021 campaign #LeadOn aiming to increase awareness of the issue among the dog-owning public.

The charity is emphasising that any breed and temperament of dog can be a threat to sheep and therefore the only way to tackle the issue is to ensure dogs are kept on a lead whenever sheep could be nearby, even if they are out of sight.

Mr Stocker said: “NSA is committed to ensuring the public develops a better understanding of the stress and suffering that any dog, no matter its breed, can cause to sheep by barking, chasing and attacking them. It is a serious animal welfare issue that puts both sheep and much-loved pets at risk.”

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