FARMING MATTERS: NFU’s autumn dog walking plea

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The National Farmers Union (NFU) is reminding dog walkers to take extra care and avoid situations where pets could scare and even harm farm animals, especially sheep.

Autumn is the time when female sheep will be becoming pregnant and they can lose their lambs when chased by dogs. Sadly, attacks by dogs on sheep are all too common and sheep can die the most terrible deaths when bitten by dogs.

Last week I wrote about the Suffolk/Jacob cross ewe who was my pet for many years. She died following a dog attack and the triplets she was carrying at the time all died too. So one lose dog, who lived in a nearby house, caused havoc.

It really is so important to control your dog so that it does not scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife. As a general rule, a lead should be used in the countryside as livestock may be around the corner. And dog owners who live in the countryside should check that their property is dog proof to prevent their pet roaming freely and causing the kind of devastation we suffered with my ewe and her unborn lambs. She wasn’t an isolated case however, and over the years we have lost several sheep to dog attacks.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire NFU adviser Georgia Craig said: “Even the best behaved dogs have a chase instinct and dogs can inflict the most terrible injuries on sheep which often result in death.”

If a dog chases and/or bites livestock, the dog owner or the person responsible for the animal at the time is guilty of an offence and may be sued for compensation by the farmer.

Richard Haynes, a sheep farmer from Winslow, said: “Autumn is tupping time when rams are mated with ewes. It is very important that sheep don’t get stressed during this time. No farmer wants to destroy a dog that is chasing and attacking sheep but the law allows us to shoot dogs that are sheep worrying, as a last resort.”

So please do remember, when enjoying the countryside with your pet, use a lead to keep them and farming livestock safe, and only let them off the lead if chased by cattle. And remember to pick up your dog’s mess. Not only is it unpleasant to leave it, but it can cause disease and infections in humans and farm animals.