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Fewer than one in 20 sheep farmers are contacted by dog owners following an attack on their livestock, reveals a survey.

Fewer than one in 20 sheep farmers are contacted by dog owners following an attack on their livestock, reveals a survey.

Conducted by the National Sheep Association, the survey found that less than 5% of sheep farmers receive direct contact from the owners of dogs involved in a livestock attack – often with fatal and costly consequences.

Almost 60% of farmers said they were left to find evidence of an attack having taken place rather than being alerted by the dog owner or another witness. This suggests sheep are often left injured, suffering and in distress following an attack.

It comes as the government is proposing greater powers for police to trace and gain access to dogs involved in attacks. Doing so could encourage dog owners to take responsibility for their animals, said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.

“It may feel daunting as a dog owner to come forward to a farmer to admit responsibility, but NSA believes that farmers would rather be informed by the dog owners themselves rather than finding injured, or even worse, dead sheep in their fields.

Amicable resolution

“Sheep worrying by dogs is a crime but openness from the dog owner can mean a more amicable resolution can hopefully be achieved and it is better than having to explain a failure to report if the dog is able to be traced.”

Often dog owners simply do not realise their pet is capable of doing so much damage, and while we appreciate this crime is not one that any animal lover would set out to commit, taking responsibility is crucial and could help reduce cases for the future.”

The sheep worrying by dogs survey completed by sheep farmers across the UK and coordinated by NSA is run annually to gain an up-to-date insight on the issue of sheep worrying by dogs’ continued severity and impact on the UK sheep industry.

Some 76% of respondents said they believed cases had increased over the past three years with many identifying the increase in dog ownership during the covid-19 pandemic as a perceived cause of the rise of cases.

Taking responsibility

The survey also uncovered animproved response to dog attacks from rural police forces. Farmers give police 6/10 for responding to reports of a dog attack – a significant increase on ratings of 4/10 in 2021 and 3/10 in 2020.

Mr Stocker said: “At this time of spiralling costs in all areas continued losses due to sheep worrying are not acceptable and could easily be prevented by dog owners simply taking responsibility and keeping their dogs on a lead when walking nearby sheep.”