Worry for farmers as we head into lambing season

A rise in livestock worrying reports is causing worry for farmers
Sheep in field

Several reports from Rural Crime teams across the region show that livestock worrying is on the rise again as we head into lambing season.

Supporting farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the region, the team at the CLA Midlands are urging dog owners to keep their dogs under close control around livestock, particularly lambing sheep.

The recent announcement that the UK Government will be supporting The Dogs (Protection of Livestock)(Amendment) Bill which will give greater powers to police when tackling livestock worrying is welcome news to farmers and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The CLA has long lobbied for greater powers for police to tackle livestock worrying and welcomes this announcement. Attacks on livestock cause great distress to farmers and threaten their livelihood. Farm animals worth £1 million were killed or injured by dogs in 2022, a 50% increase since 2019. As lambing season approaches, the CLA is telling dog owners that they must keep their dogs under close control, especially near livestock, and to stick to public rights of way. If you see an incident please report it to police

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan

Rural Police Officer, Jim Clark from Cheshire’s Rural Crime Team has created ‘Operation Recall’, a national campaign which is bringing together police forces, organisations and the public, creating a platform to achieve a common goal in reducing the number of Livestock Worrying incidents.

Operation Recall isn’t about persecuting people it’s about education and awareness. From my experience, I can say with confidence I’ve not met any farmer who hasn’t cared for their animals and isn’t deeply upset when an attack occurs. Equally, having dealt with a large number of dog owners or persons who should have been in control of a dog at the time of a livestock attack, I can also say that there are very few that don’t care for their dog or indeed the livestock that has been affected, most of the time it’s an unawareness of their surroundings in the countryside

Jim commented

Over the last few months we have seen a marked increase in livestock attacks and worrying offences. Whilst there have been prosecutions and positive outcomes in Leicestershire, we would rather not have reports to investigate in the first place. Nationally, Operation Recall aims to harness best practice in addressing such reports and includes education in schools, vets and with new dog owners. The overarching message is a simple one and it is keep your dog on a lead and under control around livestock

Leicestershire Rural Policing Team Sgt Rob Cross added

We are pleased to welcome the announcement of government backing of legislation to assist the police in tackling livestock worrying incidents. As a force, we are part of the national #OperationRecall initiative, working with the rural community to encourage responsible dog ownership and to raise awareness of proper dog handling near livestock

Carol Cotterill, Warwickshire Police Rural Crime Team said

Following a recent attack on his own sheep, CLA Worcestershire Committee member, Andrew Grant said: “These attacks are distressing for the farmers as well as the animals, just being chased by a dog can be terrifying and cause the ewe to abort her lambs.

“I would urge all dog walkers to keep to marked footpaths and keep their dogs on leads whilst walking near sheep and lambs, it is the only way to ensure that these incidents start to reduce.”

All instances of dog worrying should be reported to the police, this helps them keep a true record of the cases of livestock worrying and allows them to tackle the issue effectively. If you witness livestock worrying, you can call the police on 999 to report it. If the dog has left the scene of the attack, you can call 101.

The definition of livestock worrying is attacking or chasing sheep which can cause serious harm to the animal. Stress caused by fleeing from dogs can cause pregnant ewes to abort lambs, injury to the animal and in some cases the death of the animal, which can occur days after the attack. Livestock worrying is a criminal offence.

So what is best practice when out walking with your dog?

  • We would urge members of the public to stick to the Dog Walking Code as well as the Countryside Code.
  • Ensure that you stick to public rights of way and be aware of any livestock grazing in fields that you may have to cross. We would also encourage any dog mess to be removed and taken with you as farm animals can be susceptible to Neosporosis, a disease which can cause cattle and sheep to abort early.
  • If you are walking through cattle and they begin to follow or chase, for your own safety you should let go of your dog and exit the field. Your dog will find its way back to you.
  • Some cases have been reported when a dog has escaped from a garden or home, so ensure that your perimeter if well fenced and secure if you live in a rural area where there are livestock grazing.

You can find out further information about livestock and public access in our Guidance note.

Find out more about the Countryside Code.

Find out more about the Dog Walking Code.