CLA South West issues advice to dog owners as lambing season approaches

CLA South West team is reminding dog owners to CLA South west encourages dog owners to be responsible in the countryside during lambing season

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) South West team is urging dog owners across the region to understand their responsibilities to avoid the risk of sheep being badly injured and killed as lambing season approaches.

The advice follows the news that the Government is backing new legislation to introduce tough powers to tackle livestock worrying. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill – a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Dr Thérèse Coffey MP - police will be given greater powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively - making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further attacks.

Numerous police forces across the South West have recently reported incidents of livestock worrying which can be caused when dogs chase or attack the livestock. This can have serious effects on animals including stress, injury, abortion and death. In Wiltshire, an out of control dog was reported to police for chasing sheep around a field close to Marlborough, whilst in South Somerset, the Neighbourhood Policing team said it had received multiple reports of livestock worrying, resulting in sheep suffering serious injuries and even being killed.

Lambing season is a busy time of year for our farmers and sheep do not cope well with stressful situations and can even die from shock days after the event. It can also have a devastating impact on the owner of the animal with veterinary costs and seeing their animals suffer from the ordeal.

The CLA South West, which represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, has welcomed the news from Government, and is offering advice to dog owners to help avoid problems this season.

Flock of sheep
Dog walkers are asked to act responsibly whilst visiting the countryside

CLA South West Regional Director Ann Maidment said: “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. It is important that every instance of livestock worrying is reported to the police. If you see an incident please report it to the police. This will allow for a more accurate picture of the scale of the problem to be built up and assist the police and local authority to determine what resources and powers are required in order to effectively tackle the problem.”

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

  • Owners should keep their dogs under close control when walking through fields of livestock. Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and a fine of £1,000 can be handed out.
  • Members of the public are advised to stick to the Dog Walking Code as well as the Countryside Code.
  • Walkers should always stick to public rights of way and be aware of any livestock grazing in fields you may have to cross.
  • If you live near livestock, ensure you know where you dog is at all times and make sure your property is secure so dogs cannot escape.
  • 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
  • Where a dog is in the act of worrying livestock and there is, or is likely to be serious damage to those livestock, call police on 999. Alternatively, dial 101 to report an incident where the dogs are no longer present after an attack or to report problem dog behaviour. Photographs and videos of the worrying incident and/or the damage it caused can be extremely useful.