The NFU is warning dog owners to control their pets after the number of cases of livestock worrying has 'rocketed' in Wales and across the UK over the last two years.
The organisation says that livestock worrying causes 'horrendous' suffering to sheep and lambs and says the number of claims has increased between 2015 and 2017 by 67 per cent.
With February half-term approaching, NFU Mutual says it's expecting families to take their pets for walks in the countryside, but is urging owners to keep them under control whenever farm animals could be nearby.
Between the months of spring, when pregnant ewes and new born lambs are often grazing on low-lying pasture in areas more accessible to walkers, the average cost of claims to NFU Mutual in Wales has increased from £15,000 in 2015 to £21,000 in 2017.
NFU Mutual says the cost of livestock worrying in the UK as a whole is estimated at around £1.6 million over the last two years.
NFU Mutual is also urging farmers to check their stock regularly, put warning signs up and ask local people to report any sightings of out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.
The organisation found that over 80 per cent of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with over 60 per cent letting them roam off the lead. Almost 7 per cent of owners admitted that their pets had chased livestock in the past.
Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Attacks by dogs are one of livestock farmers’ worst nightmares, In addition to the suffering to the animals, attacks can have a severe financial impact. Insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, but there is a knock-on effect on farm profits when pregnant sheep chased by dogs lose lambs.
“While attacks can be caused by dogs ranging from the smallest pampered pets to the largest, fierce-looking animals, we are hearing that large husky breeds are involved in a lot of the recent cases.
“We are also getting reports that many attacks are being caused by dogs which have been let out in owners’ gardens and escaped to worry sheep in neighbouring fields.
“As the insurer of nearly three-quarters of the UK’s farmers and many hobby farmers, we understand the heartbreak and huge financial loss that dog attacks cause.”
Advice for dog owners from NFU Mutual:
- Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept;
- Even small lap dogs can attack farm animals;
- Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police;
- Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs;
- Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and worry sheep grazing nearby.