Dog owners urged to keep their pets on a lead to reduce sheep worrying

Toffee the dog Leeds Dogs Trust
Dog owners who allow their pets to worry animals can face a fine of up to £1000. Credit: Leeds Dog Trust

Dog owners are being urged to keep their animals on a lead to help reduce sheep worrying.

Dog owners who are found by police to have let their dog off of their lead and worrying animals could face a fine of up to £1000.

Farmers are also legally entitled to shoot dogs that are endangering their live stock.

What is sheep worrying?

Sheep worrying is when, on agricultural land, a dog either attacks sheep, chases them in such a way as to likely cause injury, suffering or abortion of pregnant ewes.

Speaking on the issue, Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall, said: “We are exceptionally lucky to live in a picturesque, rural county with plenty of walking trails that lead through the countryside.

“However, this privilege does come with responsibility. We have many farmers and agricultural businesses whose livelihoods depend on the health of their livestock.

“It is our duty as dog owners, and owners of dog walking businesses, to ensure that all dogs are kept on a lead when in a field with or near livestock, no matter how well trained these dogs are.

“We have reached that time of year when many ewes are lambing, and these sheep and offspring are highly vulnerable.

“Please keep your dogs on a lead, and respect and enjoy your surroundings.”

Since the start of the year, Cumbria Police have received 12 reports of dogs worrying sheep with the dog owner present. Four sheep died and three others were injured as a result.

Chief Inspector Lee Skelton, Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Lead, said: “Sheep and livestock worrying is a serious issue that can be very distressing for farmers and livestock owners, who depend on these animals for their income.

“It is in a dog's nature no matter how placid they may be to chase and if sheep are chased they become distressed and their instinct is to run, often resulting in horrific injury or death.

“Dog owners must remember to keep their dogs under control and on a lead around farm animals and wildlife."

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