Farmer who lost 35 sheep to dog attacks gives message to dog owners ahead of Easter

Report by ITV Wales Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas

A woman who lost dozens of sheep to dog attacks last year is pleading with dog owners to keep dogs on leads around livestock and be responsible during the busy holiday period.

Sheep farmer Anthea Davies told ITV Wales that 35 of her sheep were killed in dog attacks in 2022, and plans to fence off her flock until the Easter crowds have left the area.

It comes as the cost of losing sheep in dog attacks was revealed to have risen by more than 15% in 2022.

Sheep are believed to be at their most vulnerable near tourist hotspots and at lambing time.

There is a high cost for farmers of losing sheep to dog attacks

Ms Davies, who normally keeps her flock on common land near Ogmore-by-sea, said: "These sheep in the fields here should be out coming this weekend.

"But because the forecast is going to be quite good, we’re going to keep them in until after Easter.

"Which is not good for us because we want to turn the fields out for hay and make haylage later on, but I’d rather see the sheep in here safe away from the people and their dogs."

Some visitors to the Welsh countryside let their dogs off their leads as soon as they arrive to tourist hotspots and may be unaware that their dog could go on to scare or injure animals.

James Tudor of NFU Mutual and NFU Cymru said sheep attacks by dogs are a growing problem.

He said: "2021 saw just shy of half a million pounds worth of livestock needing to be destroyed or having been destroyed in dog attacks."

He added that there is an emotional impact as well as financial, with attacks causing distress for farmers, animals and dog owners alike.

“A lot of them are animal lovers and ultimately it could mean that their dog needs to be euthanised," he said.Last month, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths called on dog owners to keep their pets under control as lambing season got underway.

She said: "We have seen the very sad and distressing images where dogs have attacked livestock.

Signs remind dog owners to keep their pets on leads near livestock and practise responsible ownership

"We know most people are doing the right thing in keeping control of their dogs, but we also recognise some are not.

She added: "The emotional and financial costs for those who own or find dead and injured livestock is simply unacceptable, as are the implications to animal welfare."

The Welsh Government’s Wales Rural & Wildlife Crime Coordinator, Rob Taylor, said: "Brutal livestock attacks by pet dogs are sadly a regular occurrence across Wales.

"Owners need to be aware that it is a dog’s natural instinct to chase or even attack livestock and at this time of year it is more harrowing when ewes are pregnant or with already born lambs.

"It’s vital they understand that an attack on livestock, although unintended, may result in their pet being shot, or euthanised on a court order after a conviction and nobody wants that to happen."