Farm animals are being attacked by dogs more than ever, NFU reveals

There's been a big rise in the number of farm animals being attacked by dogs, according to new figures from NFU Mutual.

Last year, across the UK, farm animals worth an estimated £1.3m were attacked by dogs - an increase of more than 10% on 2019.

The report suggests the cost of these types of attacks in the Midlands has risen by 50% in the first quarter of this year, reaching an estimated quarter of a million pounds.

It correlates with the UK lockdowns, as more people opted to become dog owners and more people began walking in the countryside.

A lack of training for puppies during lockdown also appears to be playing a part.

Research carried out with more than 1,200 dog owners revealed:

Will Roobottom, a farmer from Staffordshire, looks after 250 lambs and 160 ewes at his farm near Rugeley.

He has experienced three recent attacks and says he's baffled by people who don't follow the country code, put dogs on leads near farm animals or keep to footpaths.

He says as well as it is damaging for his business - but the welfare of his sheep is the "most important thing".

To make dog walking safe, NFU Mutual advises dog owners to:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go of the lead if chased by cattle

  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can chase, injure and kill farm animals

  • Take special care to keep close control of dogs unused to farm animals

  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to the police or local farmers

  • Don't let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields - many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby

Dog attacks are classed as rural crime and the parliamentary process is underway to toughen laws.

The National Farmers Union are also calling on the Government to implement bigger fines for people who fail to keep their pets under control when they lead to harming farm animals.

Earlier this month, the NFU welcomed a government announcement to tackle livestock worrying which offers greater protection to farmers.

The changes introduced in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill follow years of NFU campaigning on this issue and have significant public support.

Almost 20,000 people signed an open letter to support changes to legislation.

Speaking in response to the new Bill, NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts, said he was "pleased to see the government taking clear action to strengthen the law in this area".

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